Losing votes through bad web design

On February 3, 2004 I decided to find out more details about General Wesley Clark's political positions. I tried by visiting the Clark campaign website. As soon as I saw it, I recalled having looked earlier and given up. But on this occasion, I was more persistent.

When I used the navigation tools on the site following "On the Issues" I was directed to http://clark04.com/issues/. This rendered in my browser (Mozilla 1.5) as shown here [Sample Clark Page] scaled down a bit.

At first glance, it appears that there is no substantive content. No text about Clark "On the Issues" is to be seen. The blank spaces leave the impression that Clark's position on the issues have yet to be penned. Only when I'd enlarged my browser's window (to take a screen shot) did I notice something I'd missed the first few times I'd visited the page. There is a horizontal scroll bar, and all of the actual content giving me the links to the issues were simply off the visible part of my window. I have yet to examine the HTML source (From February 3) in detail to see exactly why my browser rendered it this way, though a run through the W3C Validator points to a number of places to start looking for the source of the problem.

I do note that the rendering problem does not appear in either Opera (v6.02) nor with lynx (v2.8.4) nor with Safari (v1.1.1). Whether this is a bug in Mozilla or the site (or both), doesn't matter. Failure to test such an important site with a variety of browsers seems mind boggling to me.

I have not examined the site other than what I have stumbled across. But I did notice that it appears that the "description" meta information for each page on the Clark website is identical. This will not help people finding pages through search engines.

Why I wrote this

Mostly, I wrote this to inform the Clark campaign about the error, so that they can correct it. I was originally planning on emailing the screen shot to the campaign, but found that they don't advertise an email address, so I will be pointing them to this page.

Clark campaign's response

Well, I submitted a form on Clark Campaign's website, briefly pointing out the points above and specifically requesting that my message be forwarded to their web designers. Here is the response I got
From info@clark04.com Fri Feb 6 20:13:14 2004
Date: Thu, 5 Feb 2004 23:01:04 -0600 (CST)
From: Clark for President <info@clark04.com>
Subject: Thank you

Thank you for your thoughtful input on some of the most important issues facing our country today. We recently developed formal policy positions on many key issues. These position papers are posted on our official campaign Web site at http://www.clark04.com/issues/.

If you have not already done so, I would be delighted if you signed up formally as a supporter. Please visit our Web site at http://www.clark04.com/, where you can sign up for campaign news updates, learn more about policy positions, and find tools you can use to hold events in your home and community.

Today, America faces serious challenges. Our country has endured the deadliest external attack in its history. We feel our security threatened here at home for the first time since the Cuban Missile Crisis. America has lost over three million jobs for the first time since Herbert Hoover. As President, I will work to increase the affordability of health care and expand coverage to the 3.8 million Americans who lost their health insurance during the past four years. Meeting these challenges demands new leadership.

I am running for President of the United States because I want to return to the values and principles that have always made us great -- democracy, opportunity, responsibility, and shared sacrifice for our country. I deeply appreciate your support, and I thank you for helping to bring about the positive changes that will move our country forward.


Wesley K. Clark

General (ret.), US Army

Please take action now and write letters or call voters in early primary states through our eBlocks system.


Please contribute at https://secure.clark04.com/

** Paid for by CLARK FOR PRESIDENT, Inc. **
** Contributions and gifts to Clark for President are not **
** deductible for federal income tax purposes. **

This really is a pity. I want to support Clark's effort, and I know that I shouldn't let annoyances like this interfer with my choice concerning the US presidency, but I really do find myself irritated by this.

Version: $Revision: 1.5 $
Last Modified: $Date: 2004/02/07 05:10:11 $ GMT
First established: 2001/07/13
Author: Jeffrey Goldberg