For candidates for the Ward 1 aldermanic seat, first impressions matter — even in cyberspace.
The Web sites of the three Ward 1 aldermanic candidates — Katie Harrison ’11, Mike Jones ’11 and Minh Tran ’09 — each serve slightly different purposes. But the primary one behind them all remains the same: reaching out to voters. Though many Yale students do not have the time to attend campaign rallies, many interviewed said a glance over the candidate’s Web site can make or break their vote.
“We have to compete for the attention of all Yalies,” said Lea Yu ’10, the creator of Harrison’s site. “They’re very intense.”
Yu, also the graphic designer for the campaign, added that since Yale students often do not have time to relate with a candidate in person, the Web site allows students not only to read about the issues central to the campaign, but also to interact with the candidate more personally. Harrison’s site, for example, includes a blog, Twitter feed, events schedule and links to join her e-mail list and Facebook group.
“The Web site gives people options for how to interact with her,” Yu said. “And it anchors all these different options for knowing what she’s all about.”
Tran’s Web site designer, Maksymilian Czuperski, agreed that the Internet is an important tool to reach out to voters. Czuperski, an international student who met Tran when he visited Yale as a prefrosh and kept in touch, designed the site with the help of Michael Ma ’09. Minhtranforalderman.com features similar links to Facebook and an event schedule.
Yu emphasized the importance of integrating the different methods of interacting with the candidate into one site, so that there is no “awkward division,” for example, between the blog and the site itself. Yu said that part of the appeal of blog posts is that they are concise, adding that she does not expect students to read through Harrison’s entire campaign platform, but rather they will read what they can and compartmentalize the information.
Jones, however, said he did not see it that way. The main purpose of his site, he said, is to keep people informed of his stance on issues like homelessness and safety. Designed by Amy Jasper, a friend of Jones’ and a student at Pitzer College, said the site she designed is “heavier” — with a lot of text-heavy content and few links and logos — while the blog is a separate site which allows Jones and his team to provide up-to-the-minute updates, such as fundraiser announcements and press releases regarding additions to Jones’ campaign platform.
Jasper said the most important part of Jones’ site is the presentation of his policies and character: The purpose of the site, she added, is to let people know who Jones is, not to spin his image. Despite Yale students’ busy schedules, the campaigns are confident that the Web sites will be read. Kathryn Olivarius ’11, Harrison’s communications director, maintained that the Web site is an important part of the campaign.
“As much time as people spend Facebook chatting in class,” she said, “I think they’ll take the time to read the Web site.”
The three candidates’ sites also use some design elements to convey the personality of their campaigns. Czuperski said the sleek design of Tran’s site reflects the candidate’s maturity and community experience. With its sky-blue background and use of subdued colors, in addition to catchphrases and cutout graphics, the Web site may call to mind President Barack Obama’s campaign site, though Czuperski maintained that the resemblance is unintentional.
Virginia Waldrop ’12 said that reading a candidate’s Web site would be important to her voting decision. Waldrop, who said she knows Tran through his role as a freshman counselor, added that just skimming a site and looking at its design could tell her something about each candidate off the bat.
“To me, Web sites are much more significant than face-to-face campaigning,” Waldrop said. “You can get a quick impression.”