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I analyzed the tech stack of the U.S Presidential candidates to see if it could predict a winner

31 March 2016 | Gary Houlihan | About a 14 minute read
Tags: Analysis, Bernie Sanders, Democrats, Donald Trump, Feel the bern, Google Analytics, Hillary Clinton, Make America Great Again, Marco Rubio, New Relic, Presidential Election 2016, Republicans, Slack, Ted Cruz, Trending, Twitter, United States Election


As the title says, I took some time to look at the websites of all the presidential candidates, hoping that the one who uses the best tech stack will be the next most powerful person in America, if not the world.

Firstly, as a disclaimer, I cannot vote in the election! And, as this is an AND Digital blog and not my own, we’d like to make it clear that we have no political opinion on the upcoming election, but are wishing the best to all candidates! This is just a look at the tech stack they are using and what they could improve.

I’m going to look at a few elements – what platform they were using, security, the fundraising 3rd party they are using and many more.

Let’s start with the democrats, and their current front-runner….

Hillary Clinton

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 15.00.59

Hillary’s site is located at https://www.hillaryclinton.com/ . The first thing I did, as I did for all the candidate’s sites, was run it through https://validator.w3.org/ , to check how many, and if any, validation errors there were on the site. There are 7. That is totally acceptable, and the best of all the candidates. Kudos Hillary, you’re off to a flyer. Diving into the source code, the first thing I noticed was this:

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 18.11.02

…which made me laugh. A big H in unicode characters (which is her campaign logo), and nice reference to GIT, the version control software. I like finding little easter eggs like this in source code. From the rest of my detective work, she seems to be using a native platform. No WordPress here. Also her fundraising platform seems to be native. She also gets bonus points for using HTTPS as default, as all the candidates should be. Do we have a winner already? Possibly.

Alexa Rank:

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 18.33.18

Page Load time:

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 10.17.03

That’s a good load time, but we’ll need to compare with her main rival for the Democrat vote, who is……

Bernie Sanders

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 15.02.38

“Feel the Bern”

Located at https://berniesanders.com, Bernie’s site has almost double the amount of validation errors as Hilary’s, with 13, which again, is actually quite good. It’s built on WordPress, seems to be just out of the box too. Sometimes websites can be customized so heavily that it makes it hard to tell if they’re using WordPress but with Bernie you could tell pretty quickly.

It uses a company called ActBlue as the fundraising platform. ActBlue are a non-profit organisation that provide fundraising services for a few of the Democratic campaigns. Not as cool as Hillary’s with her native build (both for CMS and fundraising). Also, load problems after his win in the New Hampshire primary caused his website to crash.

Bernie has Twitter’s Twemoji widget on his site, although not actively in use, maybe it is something to appeal to the 18-30 voter demographic. Of all the other candidates, only Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have this right now as well, even ones that have dropped out.

Not only is he using emoji’s to appeal to the 18-30 demographic, he’s also big on Reddit – raising $2.3 million dollars from his fan base on there. Clinton on the other hand has only raised $16,000 on Reddit. This is probably why younger voters have overwhelmingly backed Sanders. His subreddits, run by volunteers, are asking people to engage in Facebanking – which looks at people’s Facebook connections and invites them to events in their states where there is an upcoming primary/caucus, but only people who have liked Bernie’s official Facebook page, which, at my last check is almost 3.7 million people (600,000 more than Clinton). This is smart use of a platform that call themselves “The Front Page of the Internet”.

Superfast load time:

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 10.22.32

Alexa Rank:

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 21.58.01
Pretty popular it seems – the most popular of any candidate

More popular than Hilary’s site for the United States rank, and loading almost 2 seconds faster. This hasn’t been reflected in the polls that we’ve seen so far, and Hillary is still the favourite to land the Democratic nomination, and should probably seal her victory in the New York primary in a few weeks time.

 

Moving on to the republicans, let’s start with Marco Rubio.

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 15.10.31

https://marcorubio.com/

Yes, I am fully aware he has suspended his campaign – but he’s the latest dropout, so maybe it was his tech stack that was his ultimate downfall?! A quick run through https://validator.w3.org/ shows 164 validation errors. 164! Not good Marco. The worst of any of the nominees. He’s also using WordPress as his CMS, he doesn’t even try to disguise this – it’s in the footer. He’s using Stripe as his fundraising platform. He does get some points for using HTTPS as default. In summary, I’m not really a fan. And it seems neither are the American delegates.

Alexa Rank:

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 22.06.53

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 22.08.03A really poor load time for, as Trump calls him, “Little Marco”, and a low rank, hardly surprising now he’s dropped out.

Donald Trump

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 15.20.36

“Make America Great Again”

https://www.donaldjtrump.com/

The republican front runner – for now. Hitting the headlines for his outspoken views about “building a wall” between the US and Mexico. His tech stack is actually quite good. Seems to be a native platform, and he’s using something called Victory Passport from a company called “Targeted Victory” for his fundraising.(“Targeted Victory” sounds quite sinister, doesn’t it?) Dependencies on jQuery and cloudflare, and lots of iframes. More points for Trump for using HTTPS as default, but 18 validation errors – ok but could do better. Good load time too. Will he make America Great Again? 

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 22.04.09

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 22.36.03

His Alexa rank actually surprised me, I thought it would be a lot lower than Bernie’s.

Ted Cruz

https://www.tedcruz.org

Oh dear. Not a good start for Teddy. Seems like he didn’t have the foresight to register his own name at a .com address. This is what happens when you land on tedcruz.com

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 17.52.52

So his site is located at tedcruz.org. Using WordPress again (is there a common theme here, the front-runners right now seem to be using native platforms – are the losers on WordPress?)

Again, like Trump, he is also using Victory Passport by Targeted Victory for fundraising. And comes in with 19 validation errors, which is absolutely not bad at all. Again using HTTPS as default which is expected, but he was not always doing this. Only recently this has been changed to use HTTPS as default. Prior to that it was only switching to HTTPS when moving to the “Donate” page.

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 17.59.13

Also, no one is using as many trackers as Ted Cruz – as well as the usual social media trackers, he also has many marketing and audience analytics trackers on his site,the most I saw for any of the other candidates – to name them DoubleClick, Facebook Connect, Google AdWords Conversion, Google Analytics, Lucky Orange, Marketo, mediaForge, MediaMath, New Relic and Twitter Button. (data provided from using the Ghostery plugin). This kind of worries me a bit as I’m not sure how much is being shared with 3rd parties – take a read of his privacy policy and make up your mind.

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 11.15.56

Besides the website blunder (not getting tedcruz.com) – it’s pretty OK. An OK load time. 
Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 22.42.03

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

His Alexa Rank is quite high in comparison to Trump – probably as he gets a lot less headlines.

John Kasich

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 00.10.15

https://www.johnkasich.com/

The first thing I noticed when I viewed Kasich’s site was the footer. Along with the usual Facebook, Twitter and Instagram means to connect with him socially – he also has Snapchat. I don’t think any of the other candidates are using this (or they don’t advertise it on their website with the other social channels).

Again like most of the others, using WordPress as his platform, but using a tool called SparkPay (built by CapitalOne) for his fundraising platform. Only 9 validation errors as well, which is pretty good.

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 22.32.44

Not a fan of that load time. The slowest of all the current candidates.

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 15.38.14

His lowest rank of all the Republican candidates is reflected in the Delegate results we’ve seen so far, and he’d need a minor miracle to turn it around from here.

 

Other candidates that have dropped out but have elements of note:

Chris Christie:

https://www.chrischristie.com/

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 11.39.49

Nice little Easter Egg at the top of his source code.

Also when I visit his site it brings me halfway down the page – not sure if this is intentional or not. But I didn’t like it.

Rand Paul:

https://www.randpaul.com/
hillary hd

A not-so-subtle dig at the fact Clinton was using a personal server for her State department emails.

 

Summary:

In summary, if we had to name a nominee for the Democrats and Republicans based on their tech stack – for the Republicans I would have to go with Trump. He gets a lot of points for using a native platform and not WordPress, he has the fastest load time of any of the other republican candidates, and mostly, his site sucks less than Kasich’s, Rubio’s and Cruz’s.

For the democrat vote – I’m tied. I really like Hillary’s event search on her site, it’s a clean, modern site in general. She’s using a native platform for both content and fundraising and it’s quite fast, coming in at 2.7 seconds to load.

That being said – it has to be Bernie. Although not as cool as Hillary and The Donald by using WordPress and ActBlue for fundraising and not native – the way he is catering to younger voters by utilising Reddit really stands out, and probably is the reason he’s getting so much of the 18-30 demographic. I know it is something run by his fan base, but his unique use of the platform makes him stand out, and it really shows how dedicated his supporters are –  one poster on there even made 17,000 calls to registered voters to convince them to vote for Bernie. Dedication. They’re even using Slack!

We’ll have to see how this compares to real life, it sure will be interesting!

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