Fast Download Time and Website Reliability
The two basic criteria for your political or advocacy website are speed and reliability.
In order to entice the online electorate to view your website, it needs to load quickly in order to avoid the clicker factor. The clicker factor results when the viewer tires of waiting for the page to load and decides to click on to something else. In my experience the clicker factor is most important on the first page and the top level of your website. As the viewer goes deeper and deeper into the website and its pages, the time that the viewer will wait for each page increases. This comes from the viewer's expectation that the more detailed information is going to be found deeper into the website.
However, I regard it as good practice to divide up the topic into several pages which contain additional photographs and illustrations. For instance, rather than have a single web page biography, it works best to divide the biography into multiple pages. Each web page should contain photographs that validate the copy. Therefore, if you were a veteran of the Vietnam War, you would include a photograph from your war experience. If you were a leader of the antiwar movement during this same era, you would want to include a photograph demonstrating this.
If you have a complex issue, you might wish to include a Flash presentation which through audio and visuals presents your case. You should warn the viewer of the length of the Flash presentation.
The same can be said of video presentations. Whether it be a video of the latest campaign commercial or an in depth look at an issue, you need to warn the viewer of what to expect.
When you select your web host you need to be sure that their servers and telephone lines are up to the task. The web host should have redundant capabilities which will deliver the website to the viewer upon demand. Nothing is worse than trying to view and listen to a presentation that is broken up by an inadequate server or telephone lines with insufficient capacity.
The second criteria is reliability. When the online viewer attempts to access your website, he has to find it where it is supposed to be. Nothing is more frustrating than receiving a DNS or 404 page error. These errors make me question the seriousness of the candidate or the professionalism of the campaign.
Selection of Web Host
One of the most important considerations is determining which company should host your website. Should you use a cheap web hosting company or a more expensive web hosting company. The other question is how much capacity in storage and bandwidth should the campaign buy.
Most local city and county, state assembly, state senate, and congressional candidates do not require more than 100 MB of storage and 5 gigs per month of transfer bandwidth. In fact many small campaigns can contract with a reliable web host for as little as $10.00 per month. I have had extremely good results from the following two companies:
I advise that you monitor your campaign's web usage very closely. If your campaign starts to approach the limits of the web hosting plan that you switch plans with the same web hosting company or buy additional capacity.
For statewide campaigns in small and medium sized states, I would recommend either
Both of these companies offer a variety of packages and services which can be configured and scaled to the particular campaign.
If you make it to the big show with a presidential, large state statewide campaign, or large national advocacy campaign, I would recommend biting the bullet and self-hosting through a T-3 connection. This will give you both capacity and control. However, you will need to hire some serious professionals to keep it running since you will be installing your own servers.