The Best and Worst of Presidential Candidate Websites

I’m currently in the process of writing a fairly extensive thesis about the 2016 presidential candidate logos, but the logos are just one part of each candidate’s branding efforts. Another increasingly important part of a candidate’s visual branding strategy is their website. Given the current state of the 2016 race, I’m interested in looking at four candidates: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, and Donald Trump (these are the candidates who are leading on each side of the party lines).

The Home Pages

With the exception of Sanders, all the candidates’ home pages are structured similarly. Clinton, Cruz, and Trump all have header navigation bars and a hero image of themselves at the top. Sanders’ top navigation is different in that the pages are listed vertically on the left and rather than a hero image of himself, there is a large collage of many seemingly “average American” people. This is a choice that very much represents Sanders’ campaign (and his call for a “movement”). All four pages have very clear call-to-action buttons – including “join now” and “donate now” – followed by either issues, news, or biographies. Clinton and Trump have home pages that are split into two columns, while Cruz and Sanders have one, long column.

Overall, Clinton and Sanders have home pages that predominantly use a light or dark blue, while Cruz’s page makes greater use of white space, and Trump’s page is mainly a darker red. Trump’s home page uses a serif typeface that is very similar to his corporate branding – it’s meant to look luxurious and intelligent, but ultimately the serif comes across as traditional and old in comparison to his competitors’ use of modern sans serif typefaces.

User Experience

Bernie Sanders – The busy collage at the top of Sanders’ page fits well with his campaign, but it makes reading the white-colored navigation links on the left side of the page hard to read. However, the wave underneath the collage image nicely mimics the waves in his logo, creating cohesive branding. The red “Contribute” button stands out, but the word “Donate” may be more galvanizing for a website visitor. A timeline of Sanders’ life/biography dominates the bottom section of the page, which may make him seem more personable, but it also makes it harder for website visitors to find his issue stances more quickly.

Hillary Clinton – Many of the elements on Clinton’s page make use of the arrow – a nice connection to her logo. The top navigation bar is easy to read and the “Donate” button is very visible at the right of the bar. Beneath the hero image and “join now” section, her page includes a list of issues mixed with news. Besides potentially making clearer call-to-actions with the “join now” and “donate” buttons (i.e. “Join now to stop Trump” instead of just “Join now”), the page does a good job of pulling the website visitor through the site.

Ted Cruz – The Cruz site has a clear navigation bar, but the “Featured Videos” section beneath his hero image is not presented well; the elongated video is behind a semi-transparent black box, and the video icons are too small in comparison to the video box itself. The giant “From the Trail” quote seems to interrupt the flow of the site, but the mix of social media posting bellow the quote shows nice integration of social media and makes the candidate seem more personable. The home page is very long and is the only home page of the four candidates to not include a news/issues/biography section. The length of the page means most site visitors are unlikely to scroll to the bottom – as a result, the “Donate now” section should be much higher up on the page.

Donald Trump – Trump’s site has a clear navigation bar, though it is a deep red with gradients that makes reading the white links hard. The “Join now” and “Donate” buttons are very visible and placed high on the page for easy access, but the mix of serif and sans serif typefaces is confusing to the eye. The “Media,” “Video,” and “Press Releases” headers are lost against the larger text of the posts themselves. The large amounts of white space and uneven sizes of the news boxes makes the page seem disorganized, and the textured paper background is an odd choice. Of the four candidate pages, Trump’s seems the least thought-out.

Final Verdict: It’s tie between Sanders and Clinton for best-designed website, with Trump the clear loser.