Rating the 2008 Presidential Candidates’ Websites

Co-author: Kevin Armstrong

We the people of the United States are faced with economic hardships, a climate crisis, catastrophic natural disasters, wars, rumors of wars, a failing education system, plus many more public and private issues. At this point in our nation’s history, the 44th President has the enormous task of redirecting the people in a more positive direction. At the forefront of any change initiative is communication. The President must be able to clearly relay his or her vision in order to bring the people around a shared sense of purpose.

With the Internet being a major component of communication, we took the liberty of rating each candidate’s website.

The criteria used for the rankings represent areas from both the Web developer/designer and user point of view:

  • Scope – We chose to narrow the scope to the homepage since it is the launching point for the entire site.
  • JavaScript and CSS – We looked behind the scenes (with the help of Firebug for FireFox) at how effectively JavaScript and CSS are being used: are they used unobtrusively; are JavaScript libraries used.
  • Usability – We looked at the overall usability of the homepage: is the navigation obvious; is the page too noisy; are errors handled gracefully.

Each area was rated on a scale from 1 to 5 with 1 being terribly awful, 5 being extremely outstanding, and 2.5 being good.

So without further ado, here are the results:


johnmccain.com barackobama.com
Use of libraries From what we can tell, there are no known libraries being used.     This is not necessarily a bad thing unless you are reinventing the wheel. The jquery JavaScript is used. This increases cross browser functionality.
Unobtrusive JavaScript We did discover some instances of inline JavaScript being used (body onload).     For cleaner code and easier maintenance, HTML events should be handled in a separate JavaScript file. There is no obvious obtrusive use of JavaScript
Score 2 5



johnmccain.com barackobama.com
HTML Layout The use of tables for page layout is in use.  Unless you are rendering data, tables should not be used for layout purposes. There is great use of CSS in the layout of this homepage.
Unobtrusive CSS Inline styles are used. This decreases code readability and maintenance. Inline styles are used. This decreases code readability and maintenance.
Score 2 3.5



johnmccain.com barackobama.com
Obvious Navigation Some navigational aspects are not self-evident. Trying to figure which image or text is actually a button requires too much thought. All buttons are shaped the same and have a clear action label. All text links change colors making them easier to identify.
Page noise The randomness of the sub-sections creates confusion thereby making it harder to focus on a particular area. The location of the title, content, and button for each sub-section are similar thereby making them easily identifiable.
Graceful Degradation There is a section on the homepage that does not display anything. This can happen for a number of reasons, but subjecting the user to visual errors should not happen. Graceful degradation seems to be done effectively.
Score 1 5


So with a score of 13.5 to 5 barackobama.com‘s homepage crushes johnmccain.com‘s homepage.  This is by no means the end all to be all with regards to who’s the better communicator, but it is a strong indicator.

This rating is not fully comprehensive so feel free to add more areas that we may have missed.  And as with most discussions, this rating is up for debate.

2 thoughts on “Rating the 2008 Presidential Candidates’ Websites”

  1. The McCain website uses video from YouTube. YouTube provides an excellent means of storing video and having it streamed to users. The problem is that many companies have firewalls that block websites like YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, etc.
    If you really care about your media reaching the people, you should certainly ensure that it is as accessible as possible. This should especially be the case if you are a presidential candidate.

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