You’re not alone if you don’t know who to vote for in the upcoming primary election for Philadelphia’s City Council At-Large race on May 21. There are 34 Democratic At-Large candidates competing for five of the seven seats (two seats are guaranteed to non-majority party candidates).
As communications professionals, we realized that with such a crowded field (the most candidates since 1979) high-quality marketing materials and recognizable personal branding could help a candidate stand-out among the pack. We decided to have some fun combining our interests in politics and communications by ranking candidate websites and logos.
There are a lot of interesting races this year, but we chose to focus on the Democratic At-Large Council race. To help narrow our evaluation we only reviewed sites for candidates who are still in the race. We also eliminated candidates who used a social media page in place of a website. Of the original 34 candidates, we found 18 websites of those still in the race.
While this began as a casual thing, we quickly went all-in and created a grading rubric to be consistent with the criteria we would judge. We also wanted a very Philly rating system – so we went with cheesesteaks. We ranked all candidates on: web design (fonts, layout, colors, photography, and spacing), user-experience (easy to skim text, readable font, easy to navigate, and simple pathways to donate or get involved), mobile view, and logo. A candidate could earn up to five cheesesteaks per category (and just like Oscar’s Tavern, you can get half a cheesesteak). The final rankings were awarded based on the cheesesteak total count. We intentionally did not rate writing style, political messages, or videos, nor did we look too closely at spelling and grammar. This was simply a review of the website design and ease of use.
5. Allan Domb
What was good: Overall, Domb’s logo and website are professional. The site is clean with quality photography. Good spacing between text and images allows the content to breathe – really not many negatives. In particular we really liked that his issues were easy to find, organized with an accordion, and there were links embedded throughout for more detail. This is an area where many candidates struggled. We also liked that the top menu follows you as you scroll and buttons for “Contribute” and “Newsletter” are big and easy to find.
What could be better: While Domb technically executed well, the site really lacked character. Everything was done skillfully, but fell short of excelling. The design is clean, and the site has high usability, but there are no details about him as a person or photos of him with family. We found his site technically sound, but uninspiring. It felt less like a political candidate’s website and more like a corporation’s website.
4. Katherine Gilmore Richardson
What was good: There were a lot of things we liked about this website. It’s simple, polished, and easy to navigate on a desktop, and the design only got better on mobile. She made interaction easy by reiterating her Donate, About, Issues, and Contact links right below her header image. We also loved the Events page. This was the best page of this type of any candidate we saw. Clean, easy to read, easy to understand, good layout and works perfectly on mobile.
What could be better: There was one thing that really held Gilmore Richardson back in our rankings: her logo. The first one you see on her site that’s just her name is fine, not great, and if it was just that one she would have scored a little higher. The logo in her footer and on the Donation page is busier and unoriginal. The minimal version is better. Gilmore Richardson also has a couple great photos, but she recycles the same images on her Bio and Issues pages and even reuses one of her photos twice on the same page.
3. Deja Lynn Alvarez
What was good: If you are not familiar with a candidate there are four things you typically look for: their biography, where they stand on the issues, opportunities to get involved, and how to donate. Alvarez focused on directing people to these four key areas. Her navigation follows you as you scroll, and her site was one of the best in terms of readability with bold headers and large clear text. She had the most photos of any candidate, which showed her in the community and in many recognizable Philadelphia locations. Her bold use of color blocks, font size, and photography made her site one of the most visually engaging, yet not overwhelming due to her pithy descriptions, bulleted lists, and simple four page site.
What could be better: While Alvarez has a lot of good photos, she did not make great selections for the header images on her pages. For example, on her Meet Deja page there is a header image her with Nancy Pelosi, we can understand why she wanted to use this, but it didn’t crop very well in this space. The picture was pixelated, cut off Alvarez’s face, and in the center were two blurry women in the background (Note: Since grading this site, the header image has been updated on the Meet Deja page). The header images for The Issues page and Get Involved were very generic and did not seem to support the content on the pages. Finally, her logo used unique colors, but was uninspiring and contained some detailed elements that were hard to read even on the full website version of the site.
2. Adrian Rivera-Reyes
What was good: Rivera-Reyes has a great modern and eye-catching site. His colors were fresh and deviated from the over saturated red, white, and blue motif many other candidates use. His logo is one the best options we saw, easy to recognize, unique, and scaled down very well without losing too much detail and readability. We also liked that his Issues page was detailed while still maintaining brevity and provided bold headlines that allowed readers to skim. Finally, one of the main areas that made Rivera-Reyes stand out was that he had a Spanish-language version of his website.
What could be better: Going into our ratings we felt that this site would take the top spot, but as we navigated the site we found a few mistakes that bumped Rivera-Reyes down to #2. We did not like the photo placement on his Meet Adrian page, and on mobile it cuts off the final “a” in “Philadelphia.” Not good. We would have liked to see more content in his In the News section, and reordered to see the most recent articles first. We also were redirected to an error page when visiting the Spanish-language page Prensa. This site got most of the way, but could have used a little more rigorous testing.
1. Helen Gym
What was good: Everything. This website really embodied the less is more motto and it worked. “Donate” and “Sign me up!” buttons were up front as soon as you visit the site. Her logo is professional, unique, and scales down really well. Gym succinctly expressed who she is and the issues she’s passionate about in a well-written message directly under three photos of her in the community, and closed with a clean image of her signature at the end. The presentation make this section more powerful and feel genuine.
What could be better: Although we really liked the minimal feel of the site, it left us wanting a little more about Gym on the issues. We felt this cut both ways. The minimalist site was a strength and a weakness of the overall presentation. However, as an incumbent who is active on social media and has received a lot of press, Gym can get away with having less information on her site compared to a new challenger. Another incumbent, Allan Domb, also had a minimalist site, but Gym took it to the next level.
Erika Almirón (erikaforphilly.com) scored high for usability and mobile design. We love that she is one of two candidates who have a Spanish-language site. We didn’t rate videos, but the one on her site is excellent. We also really liked that she linked to Facebook for her events – great use of that platform.
Ethelind Baylor (ethelindbaylorforcitycouncil.com) has excellent photography. We love the shot of her on the Ben Franklin Parkway with the flags in the background, and another photo in front of the Art Museum.
Justin DiBerardinis (justinforphilly.com) has a great logo and alternate logo, which along with his color scheme say “authentic Philly.” His site was also optimized for mobile and scored high in both categories.
Edwin Santana (edwinsantana2019.com) selected some nice fonts. They were unique, readable, and added some character to his website.
Melissa Robbins (melissaforphilly.com) was good overall including an awesome, personal logo and unique color palette. She may have made the list, but she dropped out of the race and therefore wasn’t considered in this evaluation. Proof that solid web design isn’t everything in a campaign.