Each cycle we see website design trends that come to dominate the digital aesthetics for campaigns. In 2008, it was overstuffed landing pages. In 2012, it was all about the banners and drop-down menus — a trend that carried over to last cycle.
Now, the first campaign sites of the election season are up, and we can already see some definitive trends showing us where political web design is going.
While some digital consultants are more focused on Facebook and Twitter than a traditional homepage, do a little searching, and you’ll find that even local races are investing in a professional quality web presence. For good reason: websites remain a go-to for voters to engage with a campaign.
For those still tweaking their online footprint ahead of 2020, here are six campaign web design trends to look for:
Mobile is king.
Mobile traffic accounts for over half of all traffic on the web. The proliferation of smartphones has made the mobile experience even more important than desktop, and campaigns have taken notice.
Kamala Harris's website on desktop is a festival of movement split in two, alternating between bold colors with text and HTML5 videos. This shifts on mobile to a very simple block website with well designed, scrollable CTAs, and minimized images.
Harris isn't unique in this: many campaign websites have put just as much work into their mobile experience as their desktop. For those who haven’t, it shows.
Simple landing pages.
Gone are the dark days of 2008, where candidates threw a kitchen sink of options on their front page. The trend now is next to no words on the front page, with very minimal and carefully selected CTAs and big font in the copy.
Candidates like Bernie Sanders have nothing but a background with a title, donate button, and an email opt-in form. The issues, volunteer, shop, and about pages are all located in sub pages.
This helps focus visitors exactly where you want them to look, namely to collect money or information to follow up later. It also speeds up the time for the site to load, a critical part of keeping attention and scoring high on Google’s new search algorithm.
Animations can be a distracting mess, but done tastefully they can help draw visitors eyes to where you want them to look. Research has found that animations can lead to a better user experience, and more click-throughs.
Websites like Pete Buttigieg's show how animations can draw your eye to a certain area through subtle fade-ins and movement. His website starts blank with only a photo of him, then a box narrows in to focus on that photo, soon after an email opt-in form fades into the right. The transitions and time delays create a very natural eye movement left to right, toward the action he wants you to take.
Campaign shops have always been a part of a campaign website, even the late John McCain had one in 2000. Fast forward to 2020 and it’s ubiquitous, with everyone from Eric Swalwell to Donald Trump selling hats and mugs — or even Space Force shirts. Down-ballot campaigns are getting into the mix as well, with congressional candidates like Russ Fulcher or Adrienne Bell selling T-shirts and hats.
Web software has made creating a shop easier than ever, with intuitive, well-designed Wordpress plugins and shop add ons becoming standard with most websites. It’s a cute way to offload your extra swag, bring in some new donors, and draw more dollars out of your most fervent supporters.
Speed rules everything.
Load times have always been important, but in 2020 they’re critical, and campaigns are designing around that. The 2018 Google Search update put speed as a top important factor for how it ranks websites. Meanwhile, as voters are accessing sites via mobile over cell connections, heavy, slow loading sites risk losing donors and supporters.
In response, nearly every presidential site is using a CDN, or a content delivery network, and minifying scripts to ensure speedy websites and high ranking sites. A slow site in 2020 could mean money, and supporters, left off the table.
Sitting there above the menu, in bright red, a banner hovers to tell you something you need to know right now. For Andrew Yang it’s a chance to win a trip if you donate today, for Harris it’s merely a need for donations.
Meant to mimic a “breaking news” alert on a news site, or an update on an app, our eyes naturally gravitate toward it in a way a donation button might be overlooked. The whole box is clickable, bringing you to the call to action they want you to take. It’s a savvy way to bring new elements into your design that points visitors in the right direction.
Bryan Eastman is the founder and CEO of PoliEngine.com a website building and hosting platform created for Democratic campaigns and progressive issues.