The 1996 presidential race is regarded as the first election to take place during the digital age. While the candidates’ websites from 15+ years ago may not seem like much now, they set incredible precedent as the first easily accessible digital campaign hubs.
Now, presidential campaigns don’t just feature web components, they’re almost entirely driven by them. During last week’s RNC and this week’s DNC, it’s hard to sit through more than 30 seconds of programming without seeing some type of signage or graphic highlighting a website, Facebook page, Twitter handle or hashtag.
The first presidential campaign websites do more than just stir up feelings of nostalgia, they might surprise you with their content. The Dole/Kemp ’96 site offers links to press releases, text transcripts of speeches, RealAudio (ha!) files and even downloadable commercials.
The Clinton/Gore ’96 site is fairly well stocked with informative content as well – debate transcripts, campaign points and even recorded audio messages from both Bill Clinton and Al Gore.
But how do the campaign sites of yesteryear stack up to those today? Well, one thing President Obama and Governor Romney’s respective homepages do much better than their ’96 predecessors is capture valuable visitor/voter data and quickly engage users with images, videos and other media.
Thanks to advances in eCommerce technology, today’s election sites also make it much easier for supporters to contribute to their favorite candidate’s campaign – as evidenced by the Donate button being prominently featured on each candidate’s homepage.
Obvious design and technical improvements aside, the Obama and Romney sites have one massive advantage over their ’96 counterparts – social media. Both candidates do a tremendous job of integrating social networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr and Spotify into their respective campaign sites, which I’ll cover more in-depth next week.