Democrats' new site misses mark
- By William Matthews
- Feb 21, 2002
With a new interactive Web site launched this month, the Democratic National
Committee is attempting to leap into the age of the user-oriented Internet.
But the jump so far may be more of a stumble.
The site (www.democrats.org) is full of user-oriented
features, but some are poorly designed and others provide incomplete or
erroneous information, according to independent Web page designers and tests
of the site.
For example, the home page can be personalized to display information
on topics the user selects. But it takes some perplexing page navigation
to get to the point where users can personalize the home page.
A feature designed to tell users who their elected representatives are
contains some information that is outdated or incorrect in other ways. In
late February, for example, it listed Republican Jim Gilmore as governor
of Virginia even though Gilmore had been replaced nearly two months earlier
by Democrat Mark Warner. The same section of the site incorrectly identified
a state senator from rural southern Virginia as a representative for Northern
Virginia, and supplied nonworking hyperlinks to state delegate Web pages.
A section of the site designed to provide e-mail addresses so users
can fire off letters to editors is incomplete. For residents of Virginia
and Maryland, for example, it fails to include the Washington Post, the
newspaper with the highest circulation in both states. Similarly, it fails
to provide Philadelphia and New York City newspaper addresses to New Jersey
residents living near those cities.
Such shortcomings are the fault of vendors who provided the Web site
with those features, said Bill Buck, a spokesman for the Democratic National
Committee. The Web site will improve over time, he promised.
"I think they have done a good job," said Kathy McShea, a Web site designer
for the Energy Department before starting her own online public relations
company, Emerald Strategies. "It's a big leap forward for the Democrats
to have all these new features."
But political Web site designer Phil Noble declared the site "sort of
underwhelming." Noble, founder of PoliticsOnline and a leader in using the
Internet in political campaigns, said navigation difficulties, errors and
a lack of information aimed at Democratic candidates undercut the site.
"It's a step forward, but not a quantum leap," he said.