Running for local office offers a great way to kick off your political career. While not everyone starts their career with a local office, campaigns for local political offices tend to be much smaller than state and federal campaigns. As...
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If you want to run a competitive campaign, a strong web presence is an absolute must. Creating a polished, effective political campaign website ensures you have enough visibility as a candidate. Such visibility is especially vital amid COVID-19 restrictions that force all candidates to reimagine how they can reach out to voters.
This guide to political websites will help you understand exactly what your campaign website needs to accomplish, where to get a website, and the best do’s and don’ts that will help you build a strong web presence that accomplishes your goals.
A good campaign website accomplishes three main goals:
- Build trust in both your campaign and you the candidate. Does your website encourage engagement? Does the site establish trust in your campaign’s brand or your leadership abilities? Your website is the best place to showcase your political brand. To show your voters that you’re active in their communities. To show voters your values. To encourage voters to interact with your campaign (through surveys, contact forms, or donation buttons).
- Present a clear path for the user journey. Is your candidate website user friendly? Mobile friendly? Is the menu easy to navigate?
Build your website with the user’s journey in mind. Map out the path you want users to take through your website, from the landing page to your policies, to the call-to-action (CTA) pages. Ensure users can easily follow your breadcrumbs. A user-friendly website with clear paths to donate buttons and other CTAs will increase conversion for your campaign site.
- Clearly communicate your political messaging. Are your positions on important issues featured prominently on your campaign website? You only have a few seconds to grab the voters’ attention, and how the site presents information will ultimately impact how long they stay on your page.
Your website should therefore include easy-to-digest snippets that summarize your campaign’s philosophies AND a place where voters can learn about specific policies in your platform.
Your have several options for how to get your political website built: website builders, freelance designers, or media consultant firms.
You can use website builders like Wix, WordPress, or Squarespace to access political campaign website templates that will allow you to easily build your campaign website. If your campaign relies on grassroots funding, this option can be a cost-effective way to get a free and/or low-cost political campaign website that’s both polished and professional-looking.
Political campaign website builders like those listed above also allow you to hand the site design over to professional website designers. You can hire freelance website designers on sites like Upwork, Fiverr, or Freelancer, which have abundant freelancers who can improve your existing site. If you want to skip website builders altogether, freelancers can also build you a website from scratch or customize a campaign website.
Your final option is to use a media consultant firm that specializes in political branding, though obviously this option is likely to carry the biggest price tag.
Which option is best for you and your campaign to achieve a strong campaign web presence? The answer depends on a number of factors—you and your campaign staff’s tech-savviness/skills, your budget, your time constraints, and more.
Keep in mind the main goals of your campaign website: (1) to build trust in your campaign by (2) presenting voters an easy path to (3) a clear message.
The best political campaign websites follow modern trends in political website design. As you design your website, ask yourself a couple questions:
- Does your website have a sense of movement? Candidates are incorporating moving elements into their websites increasingly more often.
You can see this tendency in the use of ambient video. Rep. Katie Porter’s website offers a perfect example.
Senator Elizabeth Warren’s website incorporates movement in a couple of interesting ways, including via a video slideshow of old photos and interactive text.
Incorporating motion into your campaign website design conveys a sense of action, something voters look for in their preferred candidates. Voters aren’t just looking for a leader who takes action, though. The modern world is fast-paced, and voters want to know that their political candidates are tapped into the issues of the day.
Another way to show voters that you’re in touch with the issues that impact them is by asking yourself this next question.
- Is your website mobile friendly? People’s dependence on mobile devices has only grown, especially with COVID-19 forcing everyone to conduct so much more of everyday life online. And that means it’s more important than ever to have a functional, mobile friendly layout for your campaign website.
Another design trend that’s worth discussing is the use of full-width banners that feature tiered donation options. This banner increases conversion on your website by allowing people to pick from several donation options. It also gives people the option to customize the amount. Look at Cori Bush’s political campaign website for an example:
You can also encourage donations by including call-to-action buttons and by gathering emails. DON’T overlook the importance of gathering emails! An email list is a potential donor list.
Looking at Cori Bush’s homepage (above) you can see that she uses the full-width banner, an email collection form to build her mailing list, and a donation button prominently (but noninvasively) displayed in the top corner.
The site design is simple and effective at drawing the user’s attention through the journey Cori’s mapped out for them.
But that’s not all you should consider when making a homepage for your campaign website. Let’s shift gears away from trends to talk about evergreen ideas for constructing a website.
The homepage of any (effective) website must capture the user’s attention. You want to greet voters with an engaging photo or visual presentation, true, but don’t forget why most voters visit your website. They’re looking for more information about you as a candidate and your campaign.
That’s why it’s always wise to incorporate a one- to two-sentence summary of your campaign’s mission statement. You don’t want your users to have to scroll too much (or too far) to find your mission, either. Keep a clear message toward the top of your homepage to increase the retention rate on your campaign website. Think of that message as an elevator pitch for voters visiting your candidate website.
Bernie Sanders’ campaign website provides an excellent example of a good campaign mission statement summary:
Having a homepage that’s too busy will detract from your political campaign’s messaging. It’s tempting to throw everything at the wall, but a visually pleasing homepage that doesn’t overwhelm the user is key to mapping out the user’s experience.
Each element of your homepage should draw the user toward the next step in their journey—to encourage participation and engagement. Remember, the homepage is the virtual face of your political campaign. The best way to avoid clutter? Use a single photo in your banners, and keep text and menu bars succinct.
One way to keep the clutter on your homepage to a minimum is to have an issues page. That way, you can highlight your campaign’s positions on important issues in greater detail, without overstuffing your menu.
It’s also helpful to have a downloadable PDF file available that allows voters to take the information with them. Pairing free downloadables with email collection CTAs can increase your conversion rates.
Unlike the homepage, the About page should be more robust. Your About page is a vital source of information for voters: it tells them about you the candidate. This page not only lets people get to know you better, it helps them understand your history and how they can relate to you as a person.
The About page develops your campaign’s brand and helps clear up space on your homepage. Combine different elements, such as photos and text, to make your About page dynamic and engaging. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez provides an excellent example of a rich About page on her campaign website.
Save all your biography information for your own About page.
Part of the purpose behind pages like the Issues or About pages on your site—or even the downloadable PDFs you offer—is to increase engagement. Encouraging engagement in your voters increases trust in your brand and fuels the conversion from viewer to donor.
Here are a few (of many) ways to create engagement:
- Start a blog
- Link to your social media (don’t link to platforms you don’t use, helping to avoid clutter)
- Use clear call-to-action buttons
- Email collection forms
- Set up constituent surveys that allow voters to give you feedback on both the issues that matter to them and your campaign.
Search engine optimization (SEO) will help increase the visibility of your political campaign website. This step is crucial for your site to get noticed by and gain traction with search engines.
SEO attracts people to your site—which is ultimately what gives the chance to engage with voters and hopefully secure donations or voter support. It’s well worth the time and effort to optimize your political website for search engines.
One way to accomplish optimization is to start a blog and target keywords relevant to issues central to your political campaign. This approach gives you a chance to expand on your branding and reach even more people.
Putting It All Together
When it comes to setting up your political campaign website, these do’s and don’ts offer top-notch advice to ensure you get it right. That you build trust in both your campaign and you the candidate. That you present a clear path for the user journey. That you clearly communicate your political messaging.
There’s a ton of room for creative liberty when you’re building a campaign website to meet those goals. But above all, follow the basic tips outlined above to ensure your website not only reaches the most people possible—but also converts them into engaged donors who support your campaign.