Please note that the purpose of this video is to review the two major political party candidates’ apps released by their official campaigns. This in no way reflects political beliefs of Webonise or its employees.
Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, along with the Democratic National Convention, released a mobile app a little less than a month before the Donald Trump campaign released theirs this summer. Back in 2008, the Obama Campaign radically changed the way presidential elections function by leveraging the most relevant medium at that time to gain popularity and educate voters-- technology and the internet. This campaign was the first in history to veer from the traditional ways of thinking about how to reach voters, gain support and trust that would in turn result in a vote on election day. It’s not an easy task to completely flip the norm of how individuals and groups behave. In order to get it right in 2012, the Obama campaign hired a tech team of accomplished individuals from Facebook, Google, Quora, Craigslist, and Twitter. The goal: to win the reelection. Their campaign was far ahead of the tech game compared to their competitors.
The internet (or, as Donald refers to it, the “Cyber”) has immensely changed how politician and constituents interact, how information is transferred (and fact checked-- or not). Eight years later, at the height of this current election season, our assumption before this experiment was that both campaigns would’ve continued to embrace technology and put their best work out there for their constituents, given the massive amounts of money and resources available to them. We decided to take to look at the two major political parties’ candidates’ mobile apps and see how they’re leveraging this technology. Our intention was to get an idea of what their product teams must have been thinking, by observing their UX and UI specifically, and provide our thoughts for improvement.
Our findings were different than anticipated. We assumed we’d have fairly similar looking and functioning apps as the final overarching goal of both campaigns is to win the election in November. In reality, from a product standpoint the two parties seem to have different goals. Both apps incorporate gamification to engage users and provide relevant resources to engage in the campaign's policy. However, each app achieves this in different ways.
I sat down with our Creative Director here at Webonise, Erin Essex, to get her firsthand opinion about the two apps. We did an extensive analysis of each app and have pulled out the most important parts of each. This review discusses our findings during the download and sign-in steps, the process of finding relevant information for each candidate, the use of gamification, and an overall UX/UI analysis. Lastly, we conclude with our final thoughts on which app would take the cake when comparing the two.
We did a coin flip to decide which app to check out first, and Donald was the winner. First we’ll compare the ease of entry and signing up for the Trump campaign and Hillary campaign apps.
Ok, Donald first
We used an iOS device and first typed in “donald trump” in the app store. There were a ton of apps that weren’t the “official” campaign app so it took a while for us to find America First, which is the app the Trump campaign released in July. Erin was not impressed by the first impression of this app.
“Already looking at the screenshots I’m getting the feeling this design feels kinda dated.”
Using the same iOS device, we typed in “hillary clinton” in the app store and her official campaign app, Hillary 2016 was the first in the search results. Erin appreciated this.
“Boom first one, ok got it.”
The very first thing the app requests of users it to allow push notifications. Many times people are fine with allowing them, but the fact that the app hasn’t presented any value yet makes it hard to get people to click ‘allow’ since they don’t know the value of what the app contains. It can be off putting to many users to see the request for notifications at this point in the on-boarding process. This can result in a missed opportunity for the product owners when they want to engage their users after they have left the app.
A forced sign-in was present in this app which we thought might be normal for political apps as a requirement, so Erin looked past that slight annoyance. When this is present though, it should be done as quickly as possible so users can start getting into your app.
This app offers three options for signing up; by phone number, email, and Facebook. We tried both the email and phone number options. The process was the same for both in that you were sent a code to use for verification purposes. The UX in the signup process was lacking:
“I noticed that there were instructions on there telling me that the arrow on the top was the ‘next’ button. Seems to me they could have just made the button the word “next” or put a button where they put this instructional text. Just saying. There is kind of a rule in UX, if you have to write out instructions you probably need to re-look at your design.”
Upon opening the app, unlike the other, there was not a push notifications pop-up. There was a forced sign-in though. The two options here were by email or Facebook and Erin chose the email option.
“The most painful thing about this sign up was the password restrictions. Uppercase and 8 characters were required in order to proceed. I mean this isn't a banking app, why so secure! Just one more thing that takes more time to get into the actual app. Donald’s app didn't force me to have all these password restrictions. Note - I already forgot my Hillary password.”
We ran into a bug when trying to reset the password. The email was never received (yes we checked the spam folder).
Erin’s Main Takeaway
“When designing the sign up flow for your app you want 2 things: Least amount of steps and make it as easy as possible. Both of these apps require you to register which is fine, but the Donald app took a lot more time due to verification. The Donald app was further jarring in that the second the app opened, even before registering it asked to send me notifications.”
For the Trump campaign’s app, one of the main issues with its implementation of gamification centered around goals. There are thresholds that must be met in order to perform certain actions, for example being required to reach ‘Patriot’ status at 1000 “Action Points” in order to make a post, and there are points associated with each task. However the benefits of reaching ‘Patriot’ status are unclear and not well presented to a new user. The fact that the point value of Patriot status is so high can be initially off-putting when some tasks only give 15 AP (Action Points). Finally points are not broken down effectively into daily achievable goals, which could confuse a user into thinking they should spend all day earning 1000 points rather than take advantage of things such as daily login “boosts”. This kind of short-term false expectation of users can result in user exhaustion and ultimately dissatisfaction with the experience.
“I looked at all the ways to earn points and it seemed like I would have to do several things to get there. Not to mention they were also things that would force me to sell out my friends on facebook or my contacts. This felt really off putting.”
This app’s design made it very easy to understand how to earn stars through interacting with the content. There were instructional cues instead of a tutorial as was in the other app, and users can take informative quizzes and interact with material for points.
The Hillary campaign’s app has a more linear approach that tracks your progress towards daily goals and rewards you for each step along the way with pins, badges and virtual swag that can be placed in your HQ. The steps are based around challenges, which reward you with achievements and progress on a daily completion tracker. This progress is tracked not only with flat numbers but by percentage, and visually you can watch your daily progress increment each time you complete a challenge. It also has points and stars associated with each challenge, which can be earned to place you on a leaderboard (similar to the Trump campaign’s app) or buy virtual items for HQ.
“Also the point indicator is nice because it feels similar to a pedometer and all i want to do is fill it up. Along those same lines the goal to fill it up seemed obtainable, in my testing I was able to get it up to 50% which felt good for some reason.”
Users are able to decorate their ‘HQ’ office using your earned points and stars (although we never figured out the difference between the stars and points in this app). Discounts on items for purchase in the real world can also be redeemed by using points earned here. This is a neat element of this app’s gamification which we predict would be useful in having users come back to the app more frequently.
Erin’s Main Takeaway
“When it comes to gamification I felt more informed on what to do and wanted to spend more time interacting with the Hillary app rather than the Donald app. I liked that the stars “rained” on you and I can use them toward stuff (digital world and real world). Donald's point system seemed more like gaining points benefited them more than me - which made me uncomfortable.”
Getting information to users is one area where both apps can be vastly improved. One of the main reasons why we would think as product owners, that we’d want our users to visit an app during the election season, is to be more informed on the presidential candidates’ perspectives on policy, global issues, and plans for action. Both campaigns missed the mark on highlighting these valuable resources.
Both apps however, did do a good job of having well curated ‘news’ sections-- but still mostly just included their Twitter feeds.
One of the most frustrating areas for us in this app was the ‘Info and Events’ section in the hamburger menu. The events listing was under the fold so we had to scroll down to see them, then once we were there it only showed the next speaking events that were to be held. There’s a search bar for both “info” and “events” but many of the keywords we tried to type in resulted in no results and even then, there was no messaging there (also a UX faux pas).
When looking to read up on the candidate’s stance on certain policies, the section titled, “Official Positions” seemed logical. The app framed to what seemed to be a website inside the app which is fine, but it only listed two policy items. To see the rest of them, you had to go back into the hamburger menu and click on “Positions”. This again seemed like there was lack of planning during product development.
If you wanted to find information on events and policies right after signing into the app, you cannot. First, users must interact with the gamification and pass the first challenge in order for these items to appear in the menu.
In the events section of the app, the events show and you’re immediately prompted to check out events near you. Events can be shown in list view or by map (which we loved). Once you click on an event to learn more details you have the option to RSVP or bookmark which may be a bit much-- or may be on point for their audience base and campaign volunteers.
To find information on policy stances, you must search a bit. It’s in the ‘Issues’ section which is in the ‘Resources’ section. The ‘Issues’ section opens into a frame that displays the website where you’re able to easily filter and navigate through the different policy topics in a very user friendly way.
Erin’s Main Takeaway
"When it comes to getting the information you need both apps had some barriers. In Hillary’s you had to interact with the game first but then it was very easy to find what you needed, but it was a fun interaction at least. On the Donald app you could easily navigate to the information you wanted but then couldn't filter the events and on the policy side you had to do further navigation to get more than 2 on the page, which is troublesome from a UX perspective."
The UX/UI for this app doesn’t seem like there was much input from designers or UX specialists. Fairly standard design rules such as keeping icons consistent, were not followed, and the icon for a menu item in the hamburger menu was the icon image typically seen in wireframes.
“...the icons are varying sizes, weights and colors, then mixed in are buttons and a photo of Ivanka.“
One of the main features of this app is a room called, “My HQ” that’s interactive and allows you to earn points and ‘stars’ by completing different tasks. The design may come off as slightly juvenile, but once you go through the app more it seemed to make more sense with their gamification approach. For the most part this UX was intuitive and easy to use-- our only real complaint is that when you earn points or stars, you have to click a secondary call-to-action in order to apply them.
Erin’s Main Takeaway
“I wanted to interact with the Hillary app more because it was visually appealing I was curious about what I could do. The Donald app felt disjointed due to non matching UI elements and the UX took me outside of the app or in a frame inside the app quite often which is jarring.”
In regards to product development as a whole, the Hillary campaign app seemed to be much more thoughtfully planned out and a stronger product overall. If we were to choose a winner, it would be the Hillary 2016 app.
We applaud both campaigns for attempting to use current mobile app trends to reach their constituents but do feel there is room for improvement on both ends.
Strategy seemed to differ
Obvious design flaws in Trump app
Both used gamification
Erin mentioned that the ease to gain access to important resources on the Hillary campaign’s app was only available after interacting with the app, and the Trump campaign’s app had a poorly positioned and organized section for information surrounding policies, his stance, and plans for change. If they were our clients, I would suggest they consider the access to policies and information for voters to be much more prevalent. It is almost a disservice to their constituents (think of them as users) to make it so difficult to access some of the most important and valuable parts of the app.