We often overlook the importance of design. Interior designers make a decent living invoking and developing trends for homes and workplaces, fashion designers develop the clothes we wear, and direct the trends for better or for worse. The design of cars and trucks leads to better aerodynamics and gas mileage on the roads. The bottom line is that design as a whole- scientifically and aesthetically- advances us as a society and culture.
Overlooked, is the design of websites. A while back I was killing time on the Wayback Machine- an initiative to preserve websites through all the advancements and revisions over the years as technology advances, needs change, and our mastery of the internet improves. We have gone from bulky, Times New Roman text-filled sites with cheep graphics to streamlined masterpieces that bring us the world in real time at our fingertips (seriously- I can watch DirecTV LIVE on this laptop I am writing on right now.)
Steve Krug, in his writing of “Don’t Make Me Think” hit the nail on the head. When we are on a website in the present day, we do not read, we simply scan the page looking for what we want to see. It’s the idea of instant gratification and getting the results we want, when we want them.
Given the excitement of the current political arena with the upcoming elections (and as a Political Scientist, not a Historian, I am playing to my strengths here people), I believe we can compare and contrast elements of web design with Politico and Real Clear Politics (RCP). What I love about both of these sites is that they have staff writers, draw upon other publications and commentators, and analyze political polls. Furthermore, for the sake of being transparent, both sites are more or less transparent and fair to the political spectrum and are universally regarded as such by peers.
First off, I prefer RCP over Politico hands down. On the main page without scrolling, I can see the latest political headlines, op-eds and polling. It’s like an election dashboard from the heavens. The site is very easy to navigate and is interactive when drawing electoral maps. What makes it difficult is that there is sometimes insufficient information on a given race which in the aggregate of determining the swing of the election, makes it hard to make a conclusion that doesn’t draw mainly upon electoral history.
Politico has more of their own staff members and has more original content than RCP, but their layout is more spread and sometimes invokes more looking around for what I want to read. That said, the layout is easy to follow despite being more expansive. Politico also sections headlines in groups such as Congressional, Policy, International, etc.