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Scott Thomas - Web design that grabs people

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Join Scott Thomas, a lead web designer on President Obama's electoral campaign, as he explains how to design online communities that resonate and motivate. All too often, discussions of analytics, clickthrough rates, and search engine optimization cloud the important truth that online campaigns and communities are for human beings. 

The Obama campaign was built by a big team, and fueled by love. Thomas began working for the Obama campaign in 2007, at that time they were very uncertain as to how far they would go and how long it would take. Previous campaigns had used a plethora of design elements but had not managed to make a connection between the design elements used and constituents themselves - creating designs that were consistent between web and print elements.

The campaign had so many different channels they were commuicating on that they didn't have time to undertake initial design research. As he said:

"We were truly building an airplane... while in flight"

So how to create consistency and professionalism for Obama's campaign? Using design they aimed to:

  • they decided to deliver clear and concise messaging focusing on the "we" rather than the "he"
  • they attempted to keep the message of hope while dismantling the notion of being aloof
  • they attempted to communicate the historic atmosphere by pulling from imagery of the past
  • They established a consistency and balance to exemplify stability and experience

Newsweek said in February 2008:

Obama is the first presidential candidate to be marketed like a high-end consumer brand

So how to create this? Some key touchstones they aimed for (in descending order of importance):

  • Persuade - why vote Obama?
  • Raise - campaign aren't cheap
  • Activate - turn words into needs
  • Localize - make it relevant on the ground
  • Represent - illicit a feeling of connection
  • Educate  - inform and advise
  • Introduce 
  • Connect

By way of proof that online advertising works—Thomas told the audience that for every dollar spent on online ads they brought in $10 in donations for the campaign. But he also reminded us that the campaign media team measured everything and reacted to changing situations as they occurred—because of that mistakes sometimes happened, but it meant they created a dynamic property in context with the audience and its changing world. The web is changing the way we interact, and in doing so it is making the world smaller. Great things can be accomplished by great people who believe in a vision.

Yes we did ...