Guide for political candidates on setting up your campaign website
The first step is to select a domain name such as www.candidatename.com. If a candidate's firstlastname.com is available buy it and use it. My advice to everyone in politics is to buy their firstlastname.com and renew it yearly for future political or business aspirations. If the .com is not available check the .org, the third choice is .net, use .us as a last resort. My suggestion is to avoid other .extensions. You should consider buying all three (.com, .net, .org, and possibly .us) to make sure your opponent does not buy them to confuse people trying to find you, this has actually happened to several candidates and party organizations. Campaign laws relating to title do apply, John Doe can only use the name judgejohndoe.com if he is already a judge, otherwise the name must be johndoeforjudge.com, votejohndoe.com, johndoe2006.com, etc. Domain names with slashes are not recommended, and keep the name as short as possible.
NEVER, NEVER, NEVER use Network Solutions (VeriSign, Netsol) to register, they charge $35 per year and making changes to your account is a nightmare. Also never sign up with any "free domain" offer, they generally will own your domain and you will pay dearly to buy it back from them. With current market rates you should never pay more than $15 per year per domain, unless purchasing an exotic .extension. Be careful about domains purchased directly through your web host, some hosts retain ownership and require a substantial fee if you move to another host in the future. Make sure you renew your domain in a timely manner, if it expires someone else will often buy it (including domain speculators and brokers) and you will pay dearly to buy it back if at all.
Web Hosting options:
At this point the budget comes into the decision-making process when selecting a web host. Avoid free hosts including tripod, angelfire, etc.- the ads that accompany them will make a campaign look cheap, and there is nothing to stop them from running Republican, gambling, or other undesirable ads on your site. I have personally seen GOP ads on Democratic yahoo groups. The least expensive solution is to host the site on the webspace provided with most personal Internet access plans. However, the generally long web address provided by the ISP (ex. http://johndoe.home.myprovider.com) should not be publicized. Purchase a domain as described previously, and sign up with a domain forwarding service which will automatically direct visitors requesting your domain to your site. These services can also be used for e-mail forwarding.
Most campaigns should invest in a web hosting plan, a basic plan should be fine for most candidates.
Contents and presentation:
My philosophy is to keep a political site fairly simple. A politician requires a website that everyone can easily access and navigate - it needs to reach the aunt Bertha and uncle Joe types, not exclusively the tech wizard kid down the street.
Your average visitor does not want to wait for a site to load, and many will click away if they have to wait more than a few seconds. A substantial percentage of the public does not have the latest and greatest computers, and studies indicate the average user does not upgrade their browser from the one preinstalled when they purchased the machine. Some areas have substandard networks that limit connection speeds. A site should not require plug-ins (flash, shockwave, acrobat, etc.) to view the most important content. Key pages should have graphics that are quick to download, several web-optimized photos are great and provide a human touch. Large picture collections should be displayed on pages designated for that purpose. Facebook pages and mobile-friendly design are also important.