Blue Utopia Blog

BlueUtopia now supports PACs with form F3X

Tue, Jun 19, 2018 - 12:04 PM




BlueUtopia Compliance Reporting (FEC version) has long been a great option for candidate committees due to it's ease of use and integration with our powerful CRM - along with being so much more affordable than some other market solutions. Today, we extend that powerful combination to FEC PACs.

With BlueUtopia CoreCRM + BlueUtopia FEC Compliance, online donations are instantly populated into your campaign database either via native online fundraising or via our ActBlue API . Offline donations are easily entered to help gain a complete view of a donor and to stay compliant. And finally, BlueUtopia FEC Compliance walks users through the process of creating and submitting FEC reports. You can even send letters and emails to donors from within the reporting screens and automatically store that for best-efforts documentation.

BlueUtopia FEC Compliance starts at just $50 per month for startup campaigns and PACs.

Go here for more information on BlueUtopia FEC Compliance.

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Announcing API integration with ActBlue

Mon, Mar 5, 2018 - 03:42 PM


Today, we're happy to announce the pubic release of our integration with ActBlue.

If you use Blue Utopia as your CRM and ActBlue to fundraise online, this integration will allow your donations on ActBlue to automatically populate into your Blue Utopia CRM system.

Donations are transmitted in real-time and intelligently linked to existing records. From there, you can continue to do all the things you can already do in Blue Utopia like automatically track thank you's, send pre-formatted mail merged letters, or generate fundraising reports that now include donations across both of these powerful systems that have long been committed to success for Democratic and Progressive groups.

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Racially Gerrymandered Districts

Sat, Mar 11, 2017 - 01:38 PM

Illegal Redistricting

The GOP-controlled Texas Legislature approved redistricting maps in 2011. On Friday, a federal court ruled that at least 3 districts were illegally drawn along racial lines in order to maximize Republicans' chances to retain the seats. According to the opinion, the redistricting showed a hostility not just toward Democrat districts, but to minority districts and a willingness to use race for partisan advantage.

The decision is a big win for electoral fairness, particularly for minorities but it is but a single small victory in a system that has created a huge number of uncompetitive districts in nearly every state. It is a system that has been tilted in favor of keeping Republicans in control at the expense of democracy and electoral fairness. The big takeaway from this should be a need to invest in state & local elections to reverse this trend.



Related Article

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How to approach building a website

Sat, Feb 4, 2017 - 11:23 PM

Building a Website

When we talk about putting up a website, it’s helpful to break that down into a couple of distinct phases.

The first phase is your overall approach. The easiest way to think about this is how custom you want to be. Think about how demanding you want to be with the look and functions, available resources, and your budget. This will guide your approach and will help determine the CMS platform you go with. By way of example, a common website platform is WordPress (WP). It’s very customizable and powerful and yet affordable. With WP though, you are responsible for all aspects of the technical setup. So do you have webmaster? Do you need this amount of flexibility?

With Blue Utopia, we do all the technical setup for you such as; setting up your site on a hosting server, registering your site with search engines, configuring your DNS, connecting your default pages together, connecting your online donation page, publishing volunteer/signup pages, setting up legal disclaimers, and a lot more.

With Blue Utopia’s website template system, you do give up of flexibility over a custom approach but you save a lot of time and effort. What you essentially start out with is fully functioning website with nearly all the pages you will need that is full of demo (sample) content. This entire setup process is included in the core on-boarding fee.

This brings us to the second part of your website approach (content): how do you want to approach the task of (a) creating and (b) publishing your website content. Your content includes all the items that go onto your website. Textually, that includes your bio, statement of priorities, why you’re running, news articles, list of endorsements, past endorsements, etc but it also includes your logo, photos, and other graphics.

Option 1 is the DIY approach. We’ve already taken the most technical items off your plate. Once you get all your items together, it’s just a matter of publishing them into the Blue Utopia CMS.

Option 2 is outsourcing this whole phase. It’s common for campaigns to just not want to deal with all this. They will hire a consultant or a firm to put all this content together, as well as do some nice graphics design. This is obviously a more expensive path but a good way to get a great-looking website (we don't do custom here in house but we have partners that we work with).

Option 3 is a blended approach where you do all the writing and asset accumulation and then we will publish everything you send to us into your website. We spend up to 6 hours on graphic design, then optimize the look and feel of the website. (we this in-house. the fixed fee for this add-on service is $750.)

You can learn more about website setup and design options here




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Social Connections are now available

Thu, Feb 2, 2017 - 03:07 PM

Soical Connections

Social Connections is an expanded part of our Connections feature area. The Connections area of our system allows you to see all your supporters’ connections in one area.

Associations of all kinds to other people are easily entered by staff and volunteers with knowledge of your local people, vastly improving the information available for fundraisers and relationship-builders.

Now, we’ve added social networks to the Connections area. With this new feature, you can automatically see a person’s social profiles from within their record. The system automatically looks up the person to find their profile and displays their social info into your system.

It also adds a real-time twitter feed so you can see what they tweeting about and you can even share and communicate right from within your own system.

We’re existed about this new feature and we’re going to be announcing even more great additions to our Connections feature very soon.

Get more info on our Connections feature here.



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Why Your Tech Should be Blue

Tue, Jan 17, 2017 - 01:29 PM

If you are a Democratic or Progressive organization, this article is about why your technology platform should align with your mission.

Just days after Donald Trump was elected president, NationBuilder created a lot of anger and disgust in the progressive community by celebrating Mr. Trump’s victory and taking some portion of credit as his technology platform. This shocked many on the left. It wasn’t shocking so much for its truthfulness as much as its blatant disregard for the purpose and passion of a good portion of their clients’ -- the clients that dedicate themselves to progressive politics.

People who work for progressive causes do so to try make the world a better place. We fight for equality of every stripe, tolerance of every person, and a thousand causes rooted in fairness. It’s a common refrain and one used by President Obama -- that politics is a battle over ideas -- and whether you’re a grassroots organizer, a volunteer, a consultant, a campaign pro, or a candidate; you are the one out there fighting this battle on the front lines.

As technology providers who chose to participate in this field, we are a part of that battle too. While we may not be on the front lines, we are not abstracted from this battle by declaring ourselves as separate from the fight. We are partners to the people that fight on the front lines. We build tools to help you in your fight.

We are just now at the beginning of technology adoption in political campaigns. As we progress farther down this road, technology is going to help us be much smarter about how we execute our campaigns. No one knows exactly where campaign technology will go or how far will we be able to take it for electoral advantage. What we're pretty sure of though is that it’s going to an indispensable part of winning a campaign. And we're also pretty sure that partnering with a tech platform that does not share your mission is not going to be the long term path to winning the progressive battles that have to be won.

Blue Utopia’s mission is to help build the success of the progressive community. We make powerful, easy-to-use and affordable technology for Democratic campaigns and Progressive causes at every level. We work with our partners to make sure that we’re building the tools that make them better.

If you are a progressive organization currently using NationBuilder , then we want to help you get off that platform. To start, bring us your NationBuilder contract. We will migrate you for free. In addition, if you’re stuck in a NationBuilder contact and can’t get out, we will waive your monthly fee until your NationBuilder term is up. You can view more details and get in touch here.

If you're not familiar with Blue Utopia and would like to learn more, please go here to learn more.



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Photos and Videos at Polling Locations

Sat, Oct 29, 2016 - 01:01 PM

Posted by staff



We should expect plenty of interesting events at polling locations in a few days.  And with everyone having a video camera in their pocket, there will be lots of opportunity to photo document this.  

Before you break out your phone, did you know that you can't take a photo of your ballot in a lot of states?  And in a lot of states, you can get into trouble for even taking a photo too close to your polling location. 

So before you break out the camera -- or if someone else is using their camera -- here are a couple of resources that list out the rules in all 50 states. 

Center for Citizen Media posted the state laws on photography back in 2006.   It's a bit dated but a very well done resource.

Digital Media Law Project has a handy chart for all 50 states.  It's more recent but it is more of a link-to info than useful summaries.  

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Democrats Have A Wells Fargo Problem

Wed, Sep 28, 2016 - 03:58 PM

Posted by Mike Nellis, Revolution Messaging



Goals are good. They help us visualize success and they motivate us to work harder and strive to do a little better with each project. But goals can have a nasty side-effect, especially when they are widely unrealistic.

Wells Fargo learned this the hard way. Executives created rigid, unachievable sales quotas that were virtually unheard of in the banking industry. So, naturally, when faced with a decision to either meet these quotas or lose their jobs, employees forged customer accounts.

Eventually, Wells Fargo got caught and was forced to pay a huge settlement to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau and the CEO has become Senator Elizabeth Warren’s personal punching bag over the last month.

This is not an uncommon problem on Wall Street or in sales. I personally faced impossible sales quotas when I worked in retail during college. But the exact same issue is fueling a very serious problem in Democratic politics today. Just as Wells Fargo put tremendous expectations on its employees, so do Democratic candidates and committee organizations.

In the age of big-money politics, many digital staffers on Congressional races or at committees are expected to raise unrealistic amounts of money, no matter the ethical cost.

That’s exactly why the DCCC sends monthly emails that look like FINAL NOTICE bills, which have the express intent of scamming and scaring seniors out of their money:

Fundraising Deadline
(Every. Single. Month.)

When you see subject lines like “ALL HOPE IS LOST,” “WE. WILL. FAIL,” or shady methods like de-branding or impersonating issued-based organizations, you’re seeingmanipulative, desperate tactics. That’s what happens when you’re laser-focused on an insane goal with no consideration for the people on the other end of the email.

And it gets worse: the biggest Democratic committees and candidates are the ones that other campaigns and digital consultants copy the most. So it’s no surprise that their shoddy tactics are adopted by a lot of campaigns — including Republican party committees like the NRCC and NRSC who have co-opted much of the DCCC’s playbook in the previous few years. The end result? An immediate bump for your campaign that burns out your list in the long-term. Your campaign may get the lift it’s looking for before the quarterly deadline, but in the long run, you alienate your supporters, burn your list, suppress turnout, and raise less money.

Kamala Harris EmailHere at Revolution, we’re proving there’s a different way. Rather than manipulating supporters via scare tactics or outright lies, we do our best to treat them with respect, appealing to their passion and addressing them as intelligent people. I admit, we don’t always get it 100% right — but trying is half the battle.  Of course we still set fundraising goals, but we balance them with authentic storytelling, a commitment to testing and timeliness, and we’re always brutally honest with our clients. That’s why we’ve had such incredible success in the past two years. You’ve heard about Bernie Sanders, Tim Canova, and Zephyr Teachout — who have blazed a new trail in how to fund campaigns through small-dollar organizing. But we’ve also had incredible success raising money for candidates like Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris, Dick Durbin and Chris Murphy — and we’ve done it without racing to the bottom.

So here’s the question we all have to ask ourselves as digital fundraisers: are we treating our supporters with respect and running an honest program focused on the issues that people are passionate about? If you aren’t, then you’re probably hoping to dupe 20,000 people into opening their wallets with scare tactics instead of finding a way to inspire them to give to a cause they care about.

My advice: Do your best to set realistic goals based on fluid projections, temper your strategy with ethics, and whatever you do, be honest.

This is a guest post by Mike Nellis at Revolution Messaging and originally posted here.

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Building an effective email program

Thu, Sep 15, 2016 - 03:25 PM



Great, you've decided to put some effort into building a good email communication program with your constituents/supporters.  But where to start?  What tone to take?  What to talk about?  All great questions that usually keep this program where it is right now - nowhere. We've put together these 5 guidelines to help you get started and focus your efforts.

Focus on building your list

First start with the email addresses that you DO have – on linkedin, facebook, in the candidate’s rolodex, gmail, etc.  Get those into a dedicated email program – preferably one that is integrated to your supporter/donor database and updated automatically. 

Next, every physical interaction should include an effort to collect emails addresses.  At every event, every rally, and fundraiser, you should be collecting signups.

Advocate Online.  At the core of a political campaign is a set of common values and there are opportunities to build your audience around those.  Petitions are a great tool and in conjunction with social media, you can spread your reach to earn new supporters.  Depending on your campaign, opportunities can be as big as the impact of a coal train traveling through your area, to a neighborhood project.  Use these opportunities to engage your supporters, allow them to build your audience via social, and then build your audience with more supporters.

Forget the presidential campaigns.  Focus on creating valuable information

If you’ve succumbed to the calls to join the email list of a presidential or any high-dollar statewide campaign, then you’ve seen a systematic abuse of email as a way to try to fundraising a few dollars at a time, from every findable email address and nearly every possible day.  It’s a churn-n-burn system of sacrificing the long-term potential value of an email program for the near-term benefit of raising money to get elected.  Don’t emulate these campaigns!

Instead, treat your email program as an effort to deliver useful information to your constituents.  Talk about issue-related events and they relate to your campaign.  Go super-targeted and talk to a small segment about an incident in a specific neighborhood.  Car-wash fundraiser being held by a local school?  What a great opportunity to use your platform as a representative of your district.  These are just a few ideas that represent a completely different approach to your email campaign as a tool to build relationships and loyalty among your constituents.

An effective email campaign is not a 6-month campaign with an end-date

Most campaigns send out a big blast email after not being heard from for about a year and a half and immediately start deluging us with a barrage of emails asking for money.   For candidates that just held office, this approach ignores the opportunity to provide actual useful information to supporters during the time in office – an approach that would have made the pleas for money more effective.  The day after the election, a winning campaign should thank their supporters.  The week after that, they should transform their site into a slightly more legislative tone and begin communicating on the import of their job.  Taking this approach will consistently build your audience and their participation. 

Create emails that easily digestible

You’ve built your list.  You’ve taken a longer-term approach to email communication.  Great.  But people are already deluged with email.  So you need to create the content in a way that’s effective.  In short, that’s creating easy-to-consume content.  That means avoid long text-heavy updates, balancing your pictures with your text, and creating good subject lines.  Link updates in your email to individual pages on your website that go into more detail. 

Get your emails delivered.

This is really about the technical layer of delivering emails.  Do not think for a second, you can do this yourself from Outlook or Gmail.  Find a reputable email vendor that can deliver emails to your constituent’s inbox.  There’s nothing worse that spending time on a communication piece and then having an abysmally low read rate because most of them ended up on peoples’ spam box.  We wrote about Email Deliverability here.  

This post was designed for political campaigns and, as such, is designed as a quick start to the subject matter.  For more info on our approach to blog content, check out our Welcome Message: Scope and Intent.  

 

 

 

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Getting Read by Creating Better Subject Lines

Mon, Sep 12, 2016 - 10:30 AM

Email Subject Lines

Even with all proliferation with communication medium like facebook, texting, skype, twitter, and many others email is still a primary channel for most of us.  And our inboxes continue to be full of both wanted and unwanted emails – which just makes it a little harder to be seen.

First, a caveat to this article:  Here at Blue Utopia, we’ve preached for years that there is only one sure method of effectively communicating via email and that is to consistently deliver messages to your audience that delivers value.  That means over the long term and taking the time to really talk to your audience about things they want to read. 

Everyone knows though that you have to start these relationships somewhere and many times, that’s in the inbox.  And where much of the challenge used to be getting people to read past the first few lines (remember Outlooks preview pane?), it’s also increasingly about getting the user to just open the email.  That’s where the subject line comes in.  We’re not advocating going overboard on the attention you give subject lines.  Most campaigns’ email lists are under 10,000 with somewhere near a 35% read rate.  So a great subject line that increases the read rate by a whopping 5% results in an increased read total of 500 people – substantial yes, but not something that changes the riches of a campaign.   

So try to create subject lines.  Don’t’ go overboard.  Move on to the rest of the campaign.  With that in mind, here are 10 good practices for creating effective subject lines.


Ask a question

Sometimes an interesting question can spark curiosity and engagement.  Here’s an example

Have you see the latest poll?


Make it personal

You have an event.  You send an email.  Here are two possible subject lines: 

a:  “Join us at the Doe Event”

b:   “Hi Melisa, will you be joining us at the Doe Event?

Wow, those are very different in terms of grabbing someone’s attention in a crowded inbox.  To do this in Blue Utopia, you simply add %firstname% into the subject line.  Most email vendors support dynamic content like this so just look for how to do that in your email program. 

Convey a concise value.

About half of all email is now opened on mobile devices where the screen size is limited to around 35 characters.  So get to the point as quickly as you can in your subject line.    

Here’s an example:  “Early Voting Starts Today!”

Use emojis in the subject line.

Like them or hate them, people use emojis to communicate.  So using an emoji in your email subject line can be an effective way to identifying with your audience and increasing your read/resonse rate.

Luckily, inserting an emoji into your Blue Utopia broadcast email is as simple as copying the emoji from a website and pasting it into the subject line – just like coying and pasting any peice of text.

Two great sources for emojis are Facebook Symbols and Emojipedia.  Simply go to these sources, or any other of your choosing, and copy the item, then paste it into the subject line field of your email.  That’s it.

This article is a part of our series on Email Broadcast. 

This post was designed for political campaigns and, as such, is designed as a quick start to the subject matter.  For more info on our approach to blog content, check out our Welcome Message: Scope and Intent.  

 

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Getting Your Email Delivered

Mon, Sep 12, 2016 - 10:11 AM



Did you know that well over 50% of all email is spam?  And that number has been reported as high as 90% in years past.  The reason you don’t see the vast majority of spam email is because ISP’s do a very good job of filtering that out for you.  But the systems are not perfect and one consequence of that is that about 22% of legitimate email never makes it to the inbox. 

Create great content that people want.   ISP’s use all kinds of metrics when processing your email. Many of the individual things they look at roll up to what is referred to as your sending reputation.  The performance of your emails does lot to determine your sending reputation.  For instance, a high percent of opt-outs or consistently low open rates can hurt your sending reputation and hence, your ability to deliver future emails.  Solve that by creating content that your readers look forward to, read, and engage with.     

Keep your database clean.  When you send out a broadcast email, if you’re sending to a high number of bad email addresses, or if you’re sending to an address that has bounced in the past, or a spam-trap – these hurt your reputation and can have an impact not just on your future email sends but can put even your current email at risk.    

Have a clear unsubscribe.  A clear and easy way for a recipient to stop receiving your emails is critical.  First, many ISPs will not even deliver if they can’t programmatically identify an opt-out mechanism.  Additionally, you risk recipients flagging you as spam.  Why?  Because people frequently take the easy route.  If someone doesn’t want your email and there’s an easy to use method for flagging your message as spam and a not-so-easy way to unsubscribe, then they’ll choose the easy way.  Spam reports are a killer for your ability to deliver your email.

Pick a reputable broadcast email vendor.  You simply cannot deliver a bulk list of emails from a personal email account.  Personal email systems are not set up for queuing and metering your send requests.  A personal email system also wont likely have many of the required authentication systems in place such as; SPF records, DNS (A) records, an IP address with a stable reputation, and many more.         

Avoid ‘unlimited’ email plans.  Just sending thousands of emails is not complex.  But doing all the things that are required to help you deliver emails to your supporters’ inbox is not simple at all.  Choosing an email vendor that offers a great-sounding unlimited emails is usually the surest way to deliver a bunch of emails to the bulk/junk folder.           

This post was designed for political campaigns and, as such, is designed as a quick start to the subject matter.  For more info on our approach to blog content, check out our Welcome Message: Scope and Intent.  If you want to know a LOT more about deliverability, there are some great resources.  One we recomend is Return Path's Deliverability Guide.

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Revised Help Center

Fri, Jul 29, 2016 - 02:34 PM

Today, we migrated to a revised help center. This should make it easier to navigate and to find the right help articles when you need them.

Here's a quick rundown of the layout:

Main Support Home

As you can see from above, much of the structure is still there but it has been consolidated and simplified.

My Activities

In the My Activities section, you can see all of your tickets, all tickets you're CC'd on and even all of your contributions to any community questions.

A completely new feature is the ability to follow a support question and get updates when an issue is updated.

My Activities

Another helpful addition is the use of intelligent auto-completion, which makes it easier to see that articles already exist that match your search as you type it.

We hope you find the updates useful.

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The rise of ad-blocking

Fri, Jul 29, 2016 - 10:05 AM

ad-blockingIf you're a web user and you are not yet familiar with ad-blocking software, then you can head on over to wiki for a quick tutorial. But if you're an advertiser, which many political campaigns/consultants are, then ad-blocking is a serious issue for you.

In the US, 45 million users now employ ad-blocking software and that number is growing by about 40-50% per year.

The real growth is just starting though because most ad-blocking, up until recently, was from desktop browsers. Chrome allowed ad-blocking on both desktop and mobile so ad-blocking was just limited to Chrome users who adopted ad-blocking. But in terms of mobile, that was largely it.  But consider that Chrome increasingly taking market share from IE and Firefox.  And also consider that ad-blocking was recently enabled with the iOS9 release.  Oh yeah, and that Safarai is already the  dominant browser in mobile traffic.  So that all adds up to a coming swell in the mobile numbers when the 2016 reports pile in.

And if you're trying to reach Millennials, then you're really in trouble because the site categories that cater to them (social, gaming, tech) are the top website categories being hit my ad-blockers.

The top reason Millennials give for using ad-blocking software? Number of ads. In fact, if you've tried to read an article on your phone, you've probably experienced the delay that occurs when the ads are slow to load. This, along with the sheer increase in the number of ads are why Millennials are flocking to ad-blocking software.

You can read the whole report here: "The cost of ad blocking: PageFair and Adobe 2015 Ad Blocking Report".



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Website Battle: HRC or DJT?

Thu, Jun 23, 2016 - 05:30 PM



A couple of months ago (back when the 2016 field was more full), Jim Saska at Slate wrote an article called "The Presidential Campaign Websites Are Terrible". In it he compared all the presidential websites, outlining why most of them were very bad – except for Donald Trumps actually.  No, I’m not kidding and among the salient points were the following:

Issues pages.  Where Hillary’s was a long list of links to respective issues pages that were themselves long text-heavy issue positions, Donald’s was a collection of video-centric statements on the issues – displayed in order of relevance. 

Intercepting Splash Pages.  Most, including Hillary, used annoying intercepting splash pages that asked the visitor to take action before going to the website.  These are a bad UX practice and annoying to visitors.  Trump, by the way, did not and currently does not use splash pages.
  

First, about issue pages and really about your approach to content in general, there is something more fundamental about his point.  It goes to what the scope of your website should be.  About what your audience needs and wants and about the changing landscape of online. 

Back when websites were starting their ascent to a mandatory campaign tool, they were the only real source of online information and engagement.  Over the years, the scope of a standard website began to grow – blogs (thanks, Howard), video, news, social feeds, events, sign-up, petitions, letters-to-editor, etc – the barrage of information and engagement options just kept growing.   

What’s changed is that today, there are a plethora of online properties on which to engage and build an audience.  As such, your website should perform as though it’s a piece of that puzzle, not the aggregator of all possible content and engagement options.

Also in the past few years, content consumption patterns have really changed. We’re consuming more content, in smaller chunks, and more rich media, particularly videos.  Unlike HRC’s website, DJT’s website reflects this changing reality.  The undercurrent of Jim’s point is that HRC’s website is a bit of a data dump.  DJT’s is a well-crafted marketing communications tool.    

Regarding splash pages, I wrote about splash pages here.  They are a bad practice.  There are times to use them but these instances are limited.  I won’t re-write about splash pages, other than to say stop it!         

Posted by Trace Anderson, linkedin.com/in/tracea


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Splash Page Abusers: HRC

Tue, Jun 21, 2016 - 01:20 PM

Posted by Trace Anderson

I wrote about splash pages recently.  Today, I’m going to pick on HRC a bit --not because she’s not awesome. She is. And she’s our future president. This article derives from her use of these insipid splash pages. Her website is a case study in what not to do. 

hillary clinton splash page
Here is the HRC splash page as of today.  Notice that you simply cannot bypass this.  So unless you are willing to give her campaign your email address, you cannot visit her website.  

 We wrote about how to (and not to) implement splash pages here.


hillary clinton splash page
This was her splash page last week and more indicative of what they've looked like for most of her campaign.

Clearly, this was just after she got the endorsement from President Obama, which is actually not a bad time to implement a splash page. It's a temporary announcement of a huge news event. However, a much better implementation of this splash page would have been a quieter and more polite ask of the visitor to add their name along with President Obama's in support of her -- as well as a polite option for 'no thanks, I'm just investigating right now.

This whole approach is a little surprising. With a campaign that spends so much time and money on measuring and optimizing, they have an opportunity to be courteous to their visitors and to learn critical information about them and they instead opt for the bully approach to harvest emails.

Also, the small link to 'continue to website', misplaced at the top so to not compete with the large bold 'agree' button is just a bad practice  in ways that we outlined here.


hillary clinton splash page
Hopefully, you did not think things were going to straighten out when mobile came into play. If you did, then I have bad news for you. I landed on this a few days ago and it's what prompted this article. One thing that we know is that on mobile devices, the bounce rate goes considerably up when visitors are presented with unwanted content. Yet, here on HRC, you see the same un-bypassable splash page. (not sure if un-bypassable can be considered a real word but we're sticking with it).

There is no telling how many users scrolled and pinched to find the 'skip to website' link, only to give up. I know I scrolled around for a few seconds before I shockingly realized there was no skip link.

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When to use a splash page. (Hint rarely)

Tue, Jun 21, 2016 - 12:20 PM

Splash pages, also referred to as sub-home pages are very common in political campaign websites.  Go to any presidential campaign site and you’ll likely get one jammed at you, asking you to donate, volunteer, or semi-politely demand your email. 

Despite the prevalence of these being used by teams that should know what they are doing, constant use of splash pages is NOT a practice and you should adopt except in limited circumstances.   

Why you should not use splash pages? 

Do you like those pop-up ads that take over your screen?  No need to answer.  The answer is no.  No one does.  But that’s essentially what a splash page is – at least ones that ask you for something and give nothing in return.   The purpose is to route you to a location or present an ask that is not necessarily where you intended to go on the website.  When this happens, a lot of people just leave (called a bounce).  And that bounce rate is considerably higher if it’s a mobile visit. 

Imagine for a second going to your local newspaper website to find out something happening in your area but before they send you to your content, they route you to a form seeking your email.   This is just irritating -- and borderline, rude. No one would tolerate that.  Yet, political campaign websites do it regularly.      

It’s not as if we need another reason but there is one.  Having a splash page can negatively affect your SEO rankings.  Google, Bing and other search bots rely heavily on the home page for link navigation and indexing.  When you intercept traffic with a splash page, you are also intercepting those search bots – with a splash page that has no links to any of your other site content.  There are technical ways around this but it costs time and money and, at the end of solving it, you’re still irritating your visitors.    

When and how to use a splash page.

With all the above said, there ARE some very good times to use a splash page.  Here are some rules to follow.

Be Timely and Specific.  A splash page should be temporary and for a specific event or action -- for example, you’ve created a petition and are trying to get as many signups in just a few days.   Or maybe it’s end of the quarter and you want an acute call-to-action of donating to help you hit your target.  Perfect.  These are both specific short-term events that are well suited for an intercepting splash page.

Allow Easy Passage.  If your visitor doesn’t want to donate or sign your petition, make it easy for them to bypass the splash page.  Most all splash pages have a link to ‘skip and go to website’ but teams feel the need to make it difficult to see.  And remember that a lot of your visitors are elderly, which means that (a) they don’t have throwaway email accounts to use in these situations and (b) the tiny little skip link can be damn hard to see.     

Provide value.  Petitions allow your visitors to be heard so a splash page with a call-to-action of signing a petition is an example of providing value.  Allowing your visitors to be heard, even in a small way, should improve their response.  For example, if you’re asking for money, place a button that allows them to say ‘no, I don’t want to give’.  They have now used your annoying splash page to be heard.  More importantly, they provided you some valuable feedback that you can use during this or future visits.  

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The (real) year of the Social Campaign

Mon, Jun 20, 2016 - 10:47 AM

Back in 2008, Barack Obama ran the first social media campaign. It was groundbreaking and it changed the way we think about campaigns online. But consider this:

Audience Size. Back in 2008 just 25% of adults were actually on social media. Today that number is 65%.

Importance. Social media is tied for the 2nd most important news source (with local tv) among all adults. As you might expect, that number increased dramatically among 18-29 year olds – to 35%.

Related Article

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Our approach to website templates

Mon, Jun 13, 2016 - 02:57 PM

Today, we’re launching over 400 new template-themes that make publishing a polished, professional, mobile-friendly website as easy as you can possibly imagine. But as we do that, we thought we’d write about templates and why our approach is different -- and better, at least for our audience.


Website templates sound great but hey can be a difficult feature to do right and deliver end-value. If you've ever scrolled through and purchased a template, you've encountered the problem – a brown and tan colored template for selling coffee beans. It’ll have a bunch of beautiful pictures (that you can’t use) and neat CSS and JavaScript effects. If you’re not selling coffee beans though and don’t want all the fanciness, then you end up with a bunch of useless JavaScript and CSS files and images that you can’t use. Now you’re faced with the considerable task (and cost) of designing a site that just hours ago looked awesome.

We take a slightly different approach to our templates.

At the onset, we divide the initial decisions into two parts. Part 1 is the template choice, which, for us, is limited to container layout and default content and always minimal JavaScript files. You can think of this as the wireframe and there is no color or ‘look’ considerations at this stage. The second step is the color theme but it’s more than just color. When you select a theme, we apply a combination of textures and colors that look great together.

Because we've built hundreds of political campaign websites, we have considerable knowledge of what content needs to be displayed and how. For example, a series of standard calls-to-action, a donate visible button, upcoming events, a list of endorsements, to name a few. We use that knowledge and build it into the templates and this saves our clients a lot of time and money.

Then we enable webmasters to have full control over the template files. Yes, it’s important to enable small campaigns with no technical expertise to have great websites but it’s just important to enable a webmaster to take much more full control where necessary.

Lastly, we complete the circle by providing all the support services around setting up, hosting, and supporting your website. This is critical for campaigns that normally don’t have resources to manage technology and deal with the inevitable technical issues that pop up.

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Tags: website

What is Responsive Design? (The Basics)

Wed, May 4, 2016 - 01:43 PM

Responsive design gets a lot of airtime but for people who don’t regularly create websites -- which is a lot of people in the political campaign world -- it’s not always clear what it means. So we’re going to give a quick background and explain the basics.

This post is by no means a full explanation. It does not include the implications on search, or conversion, etc. It is simply a basic description of mobile display and what responsive means for someone just starting to try to figure this out for their own campaigns.

Windows Mobile was relevant and ColdPlay was cool *

In the early days, smartphones were equipped with a mobile browser but website formatting was mostly lost in translation so mobile sites tended to look a little jumbled and much more text-oriented --- buttons were translated to text, containers overlapped or collided and most html was stripped from the mobile site.
* We're just kidding around. Coldplay was never cool.

iPhones, Android and Justin Bieber

Starting in 2007, mobile traffic starts picking up and mobile browsers get much better. Within a year or two, most website CMS's implement technology that makes your standard website to be correctly displayed on a mobile device. This was generally referred to as 'mobile-friendly' and what you ended up with was a pretty nice experience but where you needed to zoom to see the full screen or read small text. Anyone who remembers how great the zoom feature was at the time it was introduced can easily picture this.

The reason you had to zoom was because of the hard-coded width of websites. In the years leading up to this stage, almost all monitors were roughly the same size. As a result, websites were designed with widths that were specific to standard monitors. At about this time, when displaying a website on a mobile device became reasonable, all websites were designed for a regular full-sized monitor.

The result was that your website displayed great but since your mobile screen was only 400px wide and your website was hard-coded to be 900-1280px wide, you'd only see 40-50% of your website at a time. The other content was there. You just had to scroll over to see it. So mobile-friendly is a giant leap forward but text is still hard to read and forms are not easy to complete. Both require scrolling and/or zooming in.

Of course your grandpa has a smartphone and R.I.P. Prince

With responsive design, the website displays differently. Think of it as displaying your content in terms of layers and blocks. In the image below, the objects that are displayed in the monitor are treated more like independent objects (blocks). On a mobile device, the action buttons (which are just to the right of the slider on a desktop monitor) automatically display on the layer below the slider on a mobile device. Same with the containers below the slider - instead of displaying side-by-side, they are displayed on top of each other.

In addition to your content layout responding to the device, there are also rules for text that make your text a readable size on all devices. The end result is a display where all of your original content displays almost exactly as it would on your full monitor but in a very different layout -- typically much more vertical -- that works better on a small mobile device.

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Do you know your state's yard sign laws?

Mon, Mar 28, 2016 - 12:14 PM


A few months ago, we recently highlighted a study about the very limited effect that lawn signs have. But lawn signs have been around for a very long time and they aren’t going anywhere soon. And if you are using lawn signs, then it’s important to know the rules for posting them. How big can they be? What are the rules around putting a sign in a right of way? How about a disclaimer requirement?

Every state has its own set of laws and restrictions around lawn signs and the fines for violating them can be severe. We recently discovered a site -- a yard sign company actually but one that we have no association with – that has links to most or all of the legal requirements for yard signs in every state.

For a link to your state's yard sign laws, check this out:  http://www.campaigntrailyardsigns.com/yard-sign-resources/election-sign-rules/

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