About those websites of Florida’s US Senate candidates

It’s been raining all Sunday, which killed my plans for the day.  So I grabbed something off the back burner: what the heck are the senate candidates doing for their web sites?

The amazing thing is that almost all candidate web sites look alike these days. Splash screen asking for money.  Then into the main site: Big photo on the top, sometimes with several pictures rotating through, showing the candidate. often with adoring voters. Buttons for social media, making a donation, and signing up for news letter on the top or down a side. Tweets/Facebook Likes somewhere. A menu bar with 5 or so choices.  Dark (usually blue) borders on the left and right framing the content. Some text about why the candidate is the very best one could have ever hoped for.

Click on this to enlarge

There’s a reason they all look alike. Because the one thing they are all NOT doing is hand crafted HTML.  10 years ago, everybody’s web site was made out of hand crafted HTML, which produced, often, just horrific results — but sometimes works of genius.  Not today.  The only time you come close to that is if you have a huge amount of money to spend on getting a precision tuned web site:  think Pinterest.  Or if you’re some sort of purist.  The rest of us have all adopted content management systems (CMS), which allow us to define the look of our sites (or, more likely, pick a template that someone else has built) very quickly and then get on with our real business.

WordPress is the most popular one in use (and it’s what is running this web site).  Estimates say around a quarter of all new web sites are built on it.  But it’s not the only one by far.

So, what are the senatorial candidates using?  Here’s the scoop:

Candidate URL Software Design Firm Template
LeMieux, George http://www.georgeforflorida.com/ WordPress http://www.harrismediallc.com/ Twordder
Mack, Connie http://conniemack.com/ Engage CMS http://www.engagedc.com/ Custom
McCalister, Mike http://mikemccalisterforsenate.com/ Joomla! http://guardianis.com/ Crystalline
Nelson, Bill http://nelsonforsenate.com/ Orchard http://www.trilogyinteractive.com/ Custom
Stuart, Marielena http://marielenastuartforussenate2012.com GoDaddy Website Tonight Has to be home made  
Weldon, Dave http://daveweldonforsenate.com/ WordPress   Agility 

WordPress, Joomla!, and Orchard are all “open-source” CMS systems, which means they are free to use. You start with the CMS system, and pick a template.  The template controls layout, initial color choices, fonts — all the fundamental graphical elements. The templates you use may or may not be free — most CMSs have a bunch of free templates, although that has the drawback of making your site look like thousands of others.  To avoid that, people will often buy (or hire someone to build) unique templates.  Regardless, most paid-for templates are well under $100.  Above and beyond that, somebody has to put the pieces together and make fine-tuned design choices: colors, logos, futzing with the layout, etc..

Of all the candidates, Connie Mack has gone with a top-shelf approach, using a firm which specializes in campaigns and has a custom-tuned content management system.  He’s got the big guns on the web, and it shows.  His is the most unique looking in an otherwise cookie-cutter world.

Actually, I take that back.  Marielena Stuart has the most unique web site:

You can click on the image to see a still reduced screen shot.  I have to admire someone who has so much they want to communicate all at once.  It reminds me of the incredibly charming Dr. Bronner’s soaps:

Click to visit Dr. Bronner’s

Somewhere, somehow, we need to find a role for Ms. Stuart in public service.