What’s wrong with this picture?

So far I’ve had mostly nice things to say about the Obama campaign. So here’s my first dig: the index page. Hey, what if you don’t want to give them your email address and zip code? What if you don’t like the suggestion that the only way to Learn More is by giving that information to them? What if you want to go straight to the website itself, which surely must include more than just this family-foto welcome page?

You can, if you click the “skip signup” button, which is in type so barely visible that I missed it the first few times I went to the site, even though I’d clicked on it before.

While we’re at it, Dave points out here that the contributions mechanism could use some improvement too.


  1. Wills’s avatar

    I don’t know. Perhaps you need some new glasses if you think Skip Signup is barely visible.

  2. Mike Warot’s avatar

    Wills… I’m on Doc’s side on this one… it just bends into to all the crapvertising we’re all used to filtering out… it’s outside of the white frame which clues us in to what’s important.

  3. Wills’s avatar

    I can’t agree. Skip Signup is in the same type and size as learn more. Sure, I can see that the email sign up is the key focus here, but it took me about half a second to figure out how to go to the main site.

    The only part I agree with is the description “go to the website”, which is translucent.

  4. Mary Schmidt’s avatar

    Yes, drop the tacky forced sign-up. Make it as easy as possible for people to very quickly find out more, get excited, all on their own! As for the “skip” section – while you can read it – it’s tucked down in the right corner, and the whole design is structured so your eye follows along to the email sign-up.

    While I think Obama is doing a lot of the right things – his emarketing has some problems – as I’ve noted over on my blog post, Email Marketing: One Size Doesn’t Fit All.

    I wrote Senator Obama with a question a couple of months ago – and they immediately categorized me as a supporter and started sending me emails. Uh. No. I want a response to my question (and my question also indicated that I was not happy with the Senator.)

    Ron Paul, on the other hand, has some emarketing super wonks in his camp…too bad for him it takes more than technology and handful of zealots to make a successful campaign.

    Full Disclosure: I voted for Obama in the New Mexico caucus.

  5. Andrew Leyden’s avatar

    I didn’t see skip signup until I read here that it was on the page. Visually I was drawn away from it, fwiw

  6. Doc Searls’s avatar

    I missed it totally the first few times I went there. Then I saw the mall type under “skip signup” before I saw that. There is no doubt that this is designed to suggest that signing up is required before moving into the site. Not good.

  7. bruce fryer’s avatar

    I guess I wouldn’t have minded if they would have floated this over the main website. That’s how most folks do it.

    And where’s the paypal button?

    Full Disclosure: I live in Utah. It doesn’t matter how I vote.

  8. Kyle’s avatar

    I had a negative reaction too: I don’t like being herded.

  9. Jason Lefkowitz’s avatar

    Internet people for advocacy organizations (like political campaigns) are typically evaluated by their bosses on one overriding metric:

    How much did you grow the email list this [week | month | quarter | year | whatever ]?

    Given that, it becomes less surprising that these sites tend to be… ahem… *aggressive* in their attempts to gather email addresses.

  10. everysandwich’s avatar

    I had the exact same reaction. I’m embarrassed to admit I never did see the skip button and had to find actual content through a search engine. The sign-up for phone badgering page seemed useful for the campaign, though. Now, anyone up for a Talk Like Obama Day? It’s basically high concepts uttered in a triad of parallelism. Try it. It’s fun!

  11. Cameron Barrett’s avatar

    I honestly don’t have any problem with this implementation. It’d only be annoying of they hid the Skip button for 10 seconds like some advertisers do with Flash ads.

    What some people are not understanding is that a database of email addresses and potential contributors is the “golden egg” of every campaign. This database gets used, re-used, abused, sold, re-sold to every other campaign, PAC, 501.3c and affiliated organization in the future – no matter the outcome of the election cycle. This database is what drives the fund raising – and if you need to know anything about campaigns it is that without fund raising you are essentially dead in the water.

    That aside, I am quite impressed by Obama’s web site and online campaigns. He seems to be everywhere, advertising on the political blogs and elsewhere. If I weren’t so disgusted with the entire political industry I’d have found my way into his campaign a while back. But no, I’m done with politics. Probably, for good. My skin is thick but not thick enough to deal with the slime that the political industry attracts. Nasty, nasty people…

  12. Tony Steidler-Dennison’s avatar

    This wouldn’t be too tough an issue to fix. It would be a good use of a cookie to be able to skip the front page if the user has either signed up already or skipped the page on their first visit. It’s a small annoyance to supporters that could be solved with minimal effort.

    Overall, I have to agree with Cam. Obama’s web presence has been very strong and seems much more mature than we’ve seen in the past, Notwithstanding the front page issue (and the disappearance of his podcast), they seem to have a strong modern view of online campaigning.

    I’d marginally disagree with Cameron on one point. I’d term many of the folks who gravitate to these campaigns as, well, ambitious. In some cases, it’s ambition fed by a real belief in a greater goal. In some, it’s ambition for purely personal reasons. That’s not so different than a lot of other work environments. There are “climbers” everywhere. I met quite a few altruistically-motivated people in the Clark campaign in ’04 (Cameron among them) – folks who really believed in the candidate and saw the work as something of a higher calling. I wouldn’t paint the entire population of political workers with a broad brush, though there are clearly some involved with blindly self-seeking motives.

  13. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Great points from all of you, especially Cam and Tony, who worked their butts off four years ago for the Wesley Clark campaign. (Whatever happened to that guy? He’d make a great VP candidate, I’d think.)

    I knew mail lists were important, but not so important that it excuses the slightly ickyu way the Obama folks design their index page.

    What still appeals to me about Obama is that he’s the first candidate in many years to disable my cynicism.

    Of course, I’m still giving him a chance. 🙂

  14. Cameron Barrett’s avatar

    Of course, I don’t discount those people working in politics who are in it for the greater good, as opposed to those who are in politics only for their own good. I met and worked with some great people at Clark 04 but I also saw how the campaign was influenced and disrupted by those who cared more about securing their futures in politics than securing the nomination for the candidate. Some of the resistance we saw to cutting edge ideas was purely because certain individuals wanted to retain their control and influence within the campaign.

    As I tell my friends who ask me who I want to win the nomination, “With Obama it seems that we truly have a chance to affect change within this country, and with Hillary we get nothing but 4 or more years of the same crap that we Americans are sick and tired of.”

    We certainly do not need the years and years of political baggage Hillary brings along with her. I can easily see 4 years of gridlocked votes in the Senate and the House because the Republicans hate the Clintons so much. For some reason I don’t see it the same if Obama were president.

  15. Tony Steidler-Dennison’s avatar

    Having jumped headfirst into a deep pool of idealism in ’04 (not only about the candidate, but about the possibility of pushing FOSS tools into another important mainstream), I started out viewing this election a bit differently. I love Obama’s message of hope – the idealist in me. I love his mastery of imagery with words – again, the idealist. But I also admire the skills he’s shown in organizing and executing his campaign.

    Cam’s comment above, which I agree with perfectly, illustrates just some of the practical difficulties in getting through a primary to a general election. It’s tough to manage and focus a group of people with incredibly varying degrees of self-interest.

    Along those lines, Joe Klein nailed it yesterday in an article for Time:


    And, when you take the view to that level, isn’t that really the first job of a president: to define and communicate a vision, then lead and motivate?

    Just my thoughts, but that ability in Obama is yet another reason to disable my own cynicism.

    And Clark, by the way, is out working for Hillary these days. I don’t think a VP slot, should she get the nomination, is out of the question.

  16. vbonnaire’s avatar

    Plenty! When it comes to the target-marketing going on. It’s been months since I dropped by post the whole W Mc C era pressmelt — when you so heroically stepped forward with the fire pix (overhead views) I came by to ask you a question about what “netroots” are?

    I’ve seen something hideously distressing regarding fundraising efforts and ethics. At any rate, good to hear that you are past the ill health on your front page, and I’m glad you’re here! This site is so clean looking too! Very nice. Nice to see you again from an old friend who was once S B *

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