U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) takes a selfie with a student after confirming his candidacy for the 2016 U.S. presidential election race during a speech in Lynchburg, Virginia March 23, 2015. (Chris Keane/REUTERS)
On Monday just after midnight, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, announced his bid for the presidency with a single tweet, writing, “I’m running for President and I hope to earn your support!” followed by a modest campaign video. Along with his formal morning announcement at Liberty University has come the premiere of a much more lasting campaign initiative: his website, TedCruz.org.
As Rick Santorum learned the hard way, a politician’s online presence is just as important as his physical one. Which is why the launch of Cruz’s website also marks the beginning of our Yahoo Politics RevURL series. As more cooks join the kitchen, we’ll evaluate each candidate’s digital chops based wholly on his or her campaign website.
Our own Dylan Stableford notes that Cruz’s online debut was not without its flaws. His website faces rivalry from impostor URLS such as TedCruz.com, a simple Web page that urges visitors, “Support President Obama. Immigration reform now!” Meanwhile, TedCruzForAmerica.com redirects to HealthCare.gov, the sign-up hub for Obama’s health care initiative — the one that Cruz vows so passionately to dismantle. Therefore, it appears that the first formally declared presidential hopeful lacked the prescience or cash that former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg brought to the public sphere last year when he bought at least 400 Bloomberg-related .nyc domain names.
We should acknowledge that Cruz and future candidates must all bootstrap a little before announcing their candidacies and presumably hiring staff. But the Internet’s critical eye is rarely patient about these things.
Trolls and staff limitations aside, how well did Cruz’s website launch go? Let’s investigate:
Look and feel
Cruz’s digital hub is simple enough to view sans headache on both your desktop computer and your smartphone. It has the same minimalist aesthetic you might see in a green app-based startup on a budget: text at a generous font size, subtle parallax scrolling and a single YouTube video that sells you a product in a 30-second clip consisting almost entirely of B-roll. It is a site for the masses.
The homepage is graphics-heavy, and images are given their own red and blue filters to bring a level of cohesiveness to the presentation. But in the same way that adding a custom Instagram filter doesn’t fix a bad photo, a light pink hue won’t make a shot of a squinty-eyed Cruz with a mic any more dynamic.
Nonpatriotic colors are kept to a minimum, with the exception of an annoyingly bright green “Donation” button that sits atop a static bar at the top of the page and elements in various other locations as you click around the site. The buttons on the site, in particular, are so large that they seem like they might have been designed for a toddler’s iPad game. It’s clear that Cruz wants to be taken seriously, but first and foremost, he needs your money and support.
The blocky layout is respectable in the same way that a customized WordPress website is respectable. It’s nothing spectacular, but it gets the job done.
However, the site lacks consistency in a few small ways. Take, for instance, the buttons on the site’s email registration section. The “I’m in” button has a white border around it, but the button that pops up to assist you beside it is completely different. This is the type of thing that would give Apple’s Jony Ive an aneurysm.
At the launch of TedCruz.org, conservative digital strategist Patrick Ruffini tweeted that the site “appears to be using Marketo forms,” a type of website platform that allows designers to drag and drop boxes into a design interface. But according to a designer I consulted, it was actually made using a cheap page builder for WordPress. “I’m not sure how much actual design went into this,” she said.
Further investigation from Tech Dirt shows that Cruz’s website shares a security certificate with Nigerian-Prince.com. Classy.
Ted Cruz’s logo, as Twitter users have noted, looks a lot like a blue-and-red version of the fireball emoji that we’ve come to know and love. That may not entirely be a coincidence, considering the candidate’s “fiery” rhetoric. But more than anything, the logo is a reminder of that time when Cruz told a 3-year-old girl that her world was on fire.
Others have joked that the symbol looks like a teardrop. This could very well be the first historic white-and-gold-dress debate of the 2016 election.
Though this series’ intention is not to evaluate the substance of a candidate’s online content, I will take the opportunity to praise Cruz for the excellent play on words he used as a header for his current-events feed: Cruz News. Congrats all around for that one, guys.
A laughable amount of real estate is dedicated to Cruz’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages at the bottom of his site’s homepage, but there are no Snapchat, Instagram or Vine links in sight. Therefore, Rand Paul has already won this round.
Three out of five fireballs/teardrops, depending what you think of the candidate.