The Top Campaign Websites of 2017, Part 2

If you’re running a 2018 campaign, get ready to take notes on these digital standouts. 

During the 2018 midterm cycle, you’re going to hear a lot of conflicting opinions about digital campaigning.  “Digital is dead!” in one ear, and “Digital is critical!” in the other.  Those are broad statements to talk about a lot of different tools.  In this post, we’re going to talk about campaign websites, the primary way that voters engage with candidates.    That doesn’t cover social media outreach, email outreach, digital ads, and targeting.  Don’t worry.  It’s going to be a long campaign season, and we’ll be publishing deep dives into those subjects, too.

Introduction

These two red-state Democrats faced uphill battles to flip their seats blue.  Doug Jones succeeded, miraculously, in his December special election campaign against Roy Moore.  In Montana, Robert Quist could not overcome Gianforte’s populist appeal in a deep red state.  Doug Jones’ site reflected his campaign.  It focused on engagement without distracting voters and supporters with bells and whistles.  Robert Quist’s website was an example of how campaign web designers could add colorful flair to the cookie-cutter red, white, and blue campaign websites.

3. Robert Quist (D) – MT Congressional Loser

Robert Quist may have lost the Montana special election, but it was a feat that Quist kept the election close in a state where Republicans dominate congressional elections.  The bluegrass musician and populist Democrat deftly navigated the election and picked his battles to set a course for red-state Democrats in 2018.  Despite his loss to Gianforte, Quist outperformed Montana’s political lean and gave Democrats a shred of hope amidst an 0-for-4 special election season.

Why we loved this site:

An ambitious, visually-striking design that delivers.  Among Gordian staff, Robert Quist’s website was a dark horse to take the number 1 spot on this list.  The design elements, particularly the logos, the colors, and the buttons, are fantastic.  After looking through dozens of red, white, and blue template websites, this website was refreshing.  

You might counter: this is a political campaign, not an art exhibition– and you’re 100% right.  Robert Quist’s design serves a political purpose, too.  It softens aggressive fundraising, volunteering, and GOTV platforms.  The design would otherwise be too forward and pushy to readers.

Room for improvement:

Maximalist content can be overwhelming. Quist’s home page has five different volunteer/engagement buttons and three different donation buttons.  That’s intense.  Dense content is a motif throughout the site, including the issues page, which has nearly 20 issues outlined in an accordion-style drop down menu.

There are hard choices to make about content.  On one hand, you want to cover all your bases and make sure voters can find the answers they need.  On the other hand, you don’t want to overwhelm voters whose primary concerns typically fall around 3-5 issues (healthcare, education, social security, etc).  

The choice to include that content is certainly calculated carefully by campaign staff and consultants.  We prefer to condense issues into major groups, cut down long texts into more readable, small text, and integrate videos and graphics to manage space.

4.) Doug Jones (D) – AL Sen. Winner

The Democrat running for Senate in deep red Alabama shook the political world after defeating Republican candidate and alleged child predator Roy Moore by a slim 1.5 point margin.  Democrats viewed the win as a more than a symbolic victory: Victory in Alabama opens up the opportunity for Democrats to flip the Senate in 2018.  Republicans expressed frustration about the impact of Steve Bannon and his anti-establishment candidates on the 2018 midterm elections.

Why we loved this site:

Sharp, engagement-centric design: There are a lot of red, white, and blue websites, but I like the colorfulness and the impact of this home page.  The colors and design funnel potential voters straight into optimized platforms for email lists, volunteering sites, voter registration, and donation.  In particular, the “Vote FAQ” is a great page that covers absentee ballots, ride-sharing to the polls, and the voter hotline.   

We love the content minimalism on the site: Get to the point.  Let your field organizers and your ads spread the message.  In that manner, Doug Jones website aligned with the keys to his campaign success.  Once the national spotlight turned to Alabama, the media framed the contrast between Jones and Roy Moore.  Moore’s scandals took precedence.  In the wild campaign world, sometimes you just need to get out of the way to let your opponent implode.  

Think about your website in terms of your campaign’s grand strategy and make sure your platform fits.

Room for Improvement:

Don’t intimidate small donors with your quick donate amounts!  1,000 dollars as a selection on your quick donate tool?!  Doug Jones isn’t the only candidate with quick-donate buttons that range from $500-$750.  It is very unlikely that your donors will impulse-spend hundreds of dollars on your campaign.  $250 should be the absolute maximum for your buttons.  

Quick donate should be streamlined toward small donors that are more likely to spend through digital platforms.  $10, $25, $50, $100, and $250 is an ideal set of buttons that encourage donations and helps build a donor list.  You might only get $25 for the first donation, but your donor list emails and fundraising calls could easily build a longer, more fruitful fundraising relationship.



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Next: The Top Campaign Websites of 2017, Part 3