DNC, RNC Website Review

As a rule, I do not discuss politics on this website.  I have several reasons for this, the most selfish being simply that when people hear me rant and rave about – well, anything really – they tend to not listen to anything else I have to say.  I hope that some of the information I post here might be helpful to someone, and I don’t want my own personal beliefs to jeopardize that.

However, I watched a video the other day that inspired me to do a comparison of the Democratic and Republican party websites.  While the video is certainly biased, it had very good points about the importance of imagery and media in today’s world – especially in regard to politics.  Let’s face it – it’s 2009.  Any popular party, organization, service or group should have a good website.  It’s amazing how often large organizations look over design and content structure when building their site.

And so, without further introduction, here is my (unbiased, I hope) review of the Democratic and Republican National Committee websites.

dncrnc

Above are screenshots of both the DNC and RNC websites.  Right off the bat, you will notice a few things.  The layouts themselves are actually very similar – suspiciously, even (note the 2-column portion beneath the left-aligned main image).  Both sites use very patriotic colors and graphics.  You will also notice that the “Contribute” button on the DNC site is bright red – immediately drawing your attention to donate money to the party.  While it’s not overwhelming, it certainly is one of the first things you notice.

The very next thing I saw was the header.  Both sites use left-aligned header text.  However, the RNC simply displays “GOP.com”, while the DNC reads “The Democratic Party”.  Now chances are if you’re going to the site, you know what the GOP is, and what it stands for.  The point of a site header, however, is to tell the reader where they are and what they are reading.

One of the biggest differences in the two sites is the emphasis on social media.  Both sites link to the main networks, though the delivery is completely different.  The DNC uses classy (but cool) image links and rollover color effects, while the RNC only lists the 3 main sites using very basic, somewhat fuzzy images and no rollover effects.

dnc_social

rnc_social

Another major difference is the background image.  The RNC website uses a very plain 2 colored background image, while the DNC site has a snazzy star background, which gives the impression that the stars are flying out of the site’s main content.

I discovered my biggest disappointment with the RNC website when I clicked on any of the only three navigation options.  Each one opened into a completely different design – new colors, a different header – new EVERYTHING!  In fact, the blog page simply looks like a WordPress theme gone terribly wrong.  Consistency between contained material is fundamental to web design.  Not just good web design – basic design.

rnc_content_pages

There are a few other small things that really bug me.  For instance, favicons.  I am a big believer that every website created should have some sort of favicon – no matter how basic (just look at the DNC’s).  More and more people are learning how to add shortcuts to make their web browsing more efficient, and favicons are used for Chrome application shortcuts, etc.  The point is, your site needs one.  And the RNC doesn’t have one.

In the same manor, the page title of the DNC site (“The Democratic Party”) is much shorter than the RNC (“GOP.com Republican National Committee”).  This means that in a normal tab, half of the RNC title is hidden.  Again, not a huge deal, but remember, it’s the details that take a site from decent to great (as our friend @squaredeye taught us).

I do like the rotating images and site articles on the main page of the RNC website (though sharper images and neater header text would be nice).  However, adding a margin of 10 or 15 pixels to the bottom would make the 2 button links below stand out a lot more and would present a far less cluttered site.

On a final review note, I’d like to say that using offensive language on any website should be done very carefully.  There are times when it is absolutely appropriate.  However, calling the Democratic Party blog “Kicking Ass” might not be the best idea.

It hurt me a little to write this post.  You see, I’m conservative.  The only reason I say this, of course, is because I just wrote a very negative review of the Republican National Committee’s websites.  I want to make it clear that this is solely based off of design.  Don’t believe me?  Take a gander.

Now, to be fair, the DNC website isn’t all that great either.  It has a lot of elements that could be better, though it is leaps and bounds greater than it’s counterpart.  I suppose my point in writing this post is simply to show how important it is to put time, energy, and (get ready) – money – into good design.  It can go a long way in making a great first impression, which (especially in this society) may be all you get.

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