Those campaigns that provided detailed information about candidate's positions on the issues in an easy-to-read format fared best. Bachmann and Cain's discussion of issues is characterized by the use of bullet points, strategic bolding, and brevity while their peers tend to rely on longer blocks of text.
Email collection "splash" pages positioned before every candidate's homepage are annoying and confusing to participants often to the point that they leave the site entirely.
While video drives higher engagement, most candidates have yet to develop the types of videos that voters want to see. The Perry campaign's use of video is exceptional among its peers in this regard, identifying just the right mix of content, tone and length.
The Romney campaign website suffers from mission-critical failures that are relatively easy to resolve such as lack of a homepage navigation item and hard to identify secondary navigation in the "Issues" section. These problems kept participants from accomplishing their tasks, believing that content they sought did not exist.
The Huntsman campaign's biography timeline of the candidate is exceptional in terms of engagement, despite being located at the bottom of the page. Participants often spent more than 10 minutes reading, and then re-reading, every word and commenting on the numerous pictures.
Participants viewed engagement with the campaign as a funnel or process, beginning with using the website to familiarize themselves with the candidate and their stance on issues. All participants stated that they would sign up for the email newsletter if they were serious about the candidate but had not yet decided to vote for him, or didn't yet want to donate/volunteer. Those who found the "Register" area on candidate websites considered this to be a higher level of engagement that coincided with the decision to donate or volunteer. Candidate websites which tried to short cut this process by pressuring participants too early to volunteer or donate were often penalized. Candidates need to perfect this funnel process in order to effectively engage and mobilize voters. We believe this engagement to mobilization process, not social media, is the most critical online priority for all candidates in the 2012 election cycle.
A major cause of confusion is use of the phrase "Join the Campaign". This is related to the funnel process detailed above, with participants indicating that "Join the Campaign" was too high a level of commitment when they simply wanted to get a newsletter. Similarly, while some candidates use the term "Join the Campaign" for receiving a newsletter, others used the term to indicate advanced campaigning tools for supporting the candidate.
That many Republican candidate websites borrow elements from Obama's 2008 campaign is not lost on voters, who recognize and call out these elements in detail.
"What a loser, the guy was so serious. A little dramatic [laughing]. It's so dramatic and mushy."
"I wouldn't sign up for this [Join Team Cain] area until I decided that I want to support Herman. I didn't want to do this now."
"This is the most powerful marketing tool he's had so far."
"Just because I want the newsletter does not meant that I am a supporter and that I want to go all out."
"Enough. Enough. Enough. Make it stop."
"By god, I'm about ready to run out the door and vote for that man. Well done video. Very well done."
Additional information on our findings as well as findings by candidate are detailed in the full usability report along with recommended follow up actions to be taken to address issues most likely to cause voter confusion.
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