Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

ELECTION 2008; CAMPAIGN WEB SITES: WHAT CLICKS Do Web Sites Reveal a Candidate's True Colors? We Asked Some of Jacksonville's Web-Savvy Designers What They Think

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

ELECTION 2008; CAMPAIGN WEB SITES: WHAT CLICKS Do Web Sites Reveal a Candidate's True Colors? We Asked Some of Jacksonville's Web-Savvy Designers What They Think

Article excerpt

Byline: DEIRDRE CONNER

Imagery is a cornerstone of political campaigns. Just think of the psychological impact of Ronald Reagan's flag photo-op, Lyndon Johnson's Daisy ad - or Hillary Clinton's emotional moment in a New Hampshire cafe.

The quest to find the right tone through visuals isn't limited to the physical campaign trail. As the digital domain grows in importance to those seeking to influence voters, there could be a hidden - or not so hidden - meaning behind every detail of candidates' Web sites this primary season. And don't forget ballot initiatives such as the property tax amendment that will go to Florida voters this month.

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The Times-Union asked some of Jacksonville's Web-savvy design professionals for their take on the sites backing issues and major candidates that you'll see on the Jan. 29 ballot. They are:

- Lara Ortiz, creative services director, Brunet-Garcia Multicultural Advertising & PR.

- Russel Quadros, art director, Renaissance Creative.

- Dennis Eusebio, CEO and creative director, Thought & Theory.

- Jason Rhodin, art director, AppSoft Web Development.

- Lesley Foster, principal - creative director, Brown Dog Creative.

- Marc Rapp, creative new business development, Renaissance Creative.

Most pegged the Barack Obama Web site as the best in terms of design and function, both aspects that can't be overlooked with today's information overload. Said Quadros: "In the case of each candidate, they're essentially brand names that people need to believe in and have a positive connotation with. So it's important that the sites are designed to be visually interesting and appealing, yet still be organized in an intuitive and understandable fashion, to keep people engaged in your campaign."

And, the pros noted, most of the sites take advantage of social networking and interactivity. Ortiz said candidates are recognizing the importance of appealing to younger voters, and pointed to the phenomenon of candidates with sites that allow for individualized accounts for supporters. For example, on the Mike Huckabee site, users can create profiles, see exclusive information, and track their campaign contributions as they go, she said, "almost like a mini MySpace inside the Huckabee campaign."

THE TRENDS

"INTRODUCTION" OR "SPLASH" PAGE FOR FIRST-TIME USERS

ORTIZ: The intro pages create a stopping point, before the visitor enters the page and is swamped by a mass of other information, that calls the user to action and asks them for their e-mail address. These campaigns clearly believe that staying in touch with potential supporters is of key importance.

BLACK-AND-WHITE PHOTOS, ESPECIALLY OF THEIR FAMILIES

ORTIZ: It projects the message that they are believers in family values, an important point to make in a time when their opposition espouses that certain general Democratic political positions are in conflict with traditional American family values.

RHODIN: It reminds us of our family albums and creates a sense of connection.

INTERACTIVE FEATURES

RHODIN: They are all Internet community focused ... seems they are targeting the younger, more Internet-savvy demographic.

EUSEBIO: It's amazing to see how every candidate has truly embraced the social aspects of the Internet ... to reach the maximum amount of people and even more importantly, spark political conversations.

WWW.BARACKOBAMA.COM

Most of the design professionals consulted gave their highest praise to Barack Obama's Web site for design and function.

- The crystalline blue color and the portrait of Obama looking up and off into the distance say "hope for the future," Ortiz said.

- Photos shot from below with very dramatic lighting give him a JFK, MLK orator look, Eusebio said.

- The cleanest, least cluttered, and most open Web site of the major competitors, Ortiz said. …

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