TFP panel ranks Toledo mayoral campaign web sitesWritten by Mark Hensch | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Politicians are devoting a larger amount of their campaigning energies toward the Internet. Toledo’s mayoral candidates are no exception — Democrats Keith Wilkowski and Ben Konop, Independent Mike Bell and Republican Jim Moody all sport a presence on the Web. In this fall’s decidedly 21st century election, who has the edge in cyberspace?
Toledo Free Press assembled a panel of four local Internet experts with Toledo connections to find out.
The quartet examined each candidate’s site before answering a survey prepared by Toledo Free Press. The results reveal the panel favors Mike Bell as the top of the technological pack, while the other mayoral candidates divided opinions.
D. Michael Collins did not establish a Web site in time for this panel. His site is at www.dmichaelcollins.com.
Here are the members of the panel, which responded between June 10 and July 16.
- Matt Braun is a Toledo-area consultant focusing on Web-user experience. His company, Magnate Interactive, creates Web sites, Flash applications, and iPhone games. Its URL is www.magnateinteractive.com.
- Shane Craig is a Web designer based in Rossford who runs www.shanesportfolio.com. Besides Web sites, Craig is also a Flash developer.
- Jaan Kanellis is a former Toledo resident who operates www.jaan kannelis.com, a marketing blog. Started five years ago, the blog site focuses on social media and search marketing for Web sites.
- Scott Showalter is a Perrysburg resident who runs Scottrageous Creative, a media design firm. Its URL is www.scottrageous.com. Showalter has designed Web sites for 10 years, primarily focusing on branding and development of e-commerce and client-manageable Web sites.
Toledo Free Press: Which candidate had the most visually attractive Web site?
Showalter: Bell. I get the feeling that the site may have been developed from a pre-designed commercial Web site template, but if so then this design was a great choice. The site has good color without screaming patriotism, and makes good use of space, with appropriate content in two sidebars.
Craig: I feel that the most visually attractive site is Bell’s. The white text contrasts nicely against the gray and red background of the navigation bars. Iconic graphics, such as the head shot of Bell, and the color of the Flash video player harmonize with the theme of the site, “Answering the Call.”
Braun: Bell. The site, which makes use of red, black, white and blue, stands apart from the other candidates’ sites, which use a predominantly blue color scheme. The photography of the candidate is sharper and better lit than the others. Overall readability is better on this site than the others.
Kanellis: My vote would have to be the Moody Web site as it definitely gives you a feel that this is a Web site of an American politician.
TFP: Which candidate has the most informative Web site?
Kanellis: They all seem to deliver when discussing their key issues, views and promises. The best way to keep visitors coming back to the Web sites is posting fresh content. It seems Moody and Wilkowski do this the best, posting almost daily news and updates to the web site.
Showalter: Bell and Moody are the most informative for me. These candidates both have clear plans for the city and outline briefly how they plan to accomplish these plans as mayor. Konop does not have this information on his site, and Wilkowski lists plans that I honestly felt were not within the mayoral scope. He also lists no specific actions he can and will set into action after the election. Only by downloading his PDF file can the viewer read his plan of action.
Craig: Bell and Moody are neck and neck on this one. Both candidates’ sites are easy to navigate and find the appropriate information on their backgrounds, issues, news and how to contribute to their campaigns. The edge goes to Bell because of black text on a white background. It is much easier to read. The stars and banners on Moody’s site are too distracting for the reader.
Braun: Bell. The Web site contains the most readily available information on himself as a person and as a candidate. Two of the other sites, at the time of review, had content that was purportedly “coming soon,” which isn’t particularly useful to those who might not visit the site more than once.
TFP: Which campaign has the best grasp of social networking?
Kanellis: Wilkowski scores well for linking out to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and RSS feed for Web site updates. The problem is that he has these profiles setup, but they are not effectively using them to attract voters. The YouTube page has not had a new video posted in four months. With the candidate’s Twitter page having only five updates and only 55 followers they have much work to do there. However, four of the Twitter updates are within the last week — maybe they are trying more here. The effort appears to be fully there, but the Web team needs to take the next step.
Showalter: Moody was the most active participant of the four, mostly via Twitter updates, and the number of people following him on Twitter was highest (65). However, his Facebook icon didn’t link to any thing. He does share various information and media on MySpace, despite the poor readability and design that is usually synonymous with MySpace pages.
Craig: Bell can be accessed from all the major social networking sites. All links work and open a new window. Icons are placed “above the fold” and are easy to find.
Braun: Wilkowski. The links to his various social networking outlets like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are displayed prominently on the homepage. The YouTube content is a bit stale (the most recent seems to be about 6 months old), and his Twitter feed at the time of review had not been updated in two weeks, but the content is more findable via his Web site than the other’s.
TFP: Which Web site demonstrates the best use of technology?
Kanellis: My vote would go to Wilkowski for using Facebook Connect as a universal login. That is very trendy right now.
Showalter: This is interesting, because while the technology is available, is it necessary to use it? And is it used appropriately? Everyone has different preferences and tolerances regarding Web content. I personally do not like wasting time on something that’s not valuable. All the candidates have videos on their sites except for Moody, who put his videos on MySpace instead.
TFP: Which Web site is the most user-friendly?
Kanellis: My vote would have to go to Moody as it is very easy to find all sections at the top of every page. He also offers all the fresh news content right in the middle of the page for each user to read.
Showalter: Bell’s site, despite having rich content, worked flawlessly no matter what browser I accessed it in. It was just as easily accessible on the iPhone, and everything worked as it did on the desktop, including video content. I couldn’t say the same for the other sites, as some links and features were broken, or failed to work right in newer browsers like Google’s Chrome, or they used rich Flash content, which isn’t compatible with most mobile devices including the iPhone.
Craig: I felt that Bell’s site is more user-friendly than they other three because of page loading speeds, ease of navigation, information and readability.
Braun: Wilkowski. The site’s main navigation is clear and simple. While Bell’s is a close second, the combination of vertically and horizontally oriented navigation on that site diminishes its ease-of-use.
TFP: Rank the Web sites from best to worst, based on an overall impression of usability, visual aesthetic, use of technology and compliance with Web standards.
3. Ben Konop
4. Jim Moody