Ranking the 404 page of each Presidential Candidate

Who has the best puns?

404 error pages are a great way for brands (and candidates) to express their personal identity in a creative way. As an Experience Designer in advertising and a lifelong political junkie, I’m fascinated by how candidates incorporate their personas into their digital presence.

Below, I’ve used my snark and UX / branding sensibility to understand the 2016 election season through the lens of each candidate’s 404 page. Each 404 is ranked by how well each page reflects the candidate’s brand, as defined by the public perception of each candidate — this includes the good and the bad.

Full disclosure: I‘m an undecided liberal voter, but I follow politics like I watch shitty reality TV — to revel in the sheer competition and absurdity of it all. That being said, this wasn’t written with Foreign Affairs level objectivity.

15. Carly Fiorina

Carly, you should get technology! You ran HP! You ran it into the ground, but still. Your 404 should at least tell me I made an error, not just re-direct me to your fundraising splash screen. I now have no idea how to get back to your site. However, Fiorina does come off as a bit of a corporate vulture, so brand-wise she’s not far off.

14. Chris Christie

After the scroll

There is no real branding tie-in to Christie’s “telling it like it is” campaign here. However, his web team was smart to harness the car crash mentality people watching Chris Christie dance must feel (you just can’t look away). This 404 also sneakily serves as an informal Jimmy Fallon endorsement.

Massive UX (user experience) point deduction on making the video player so big that the joke and page title were buried. Does anyone even know they’re on the 404 until they scroll down? People probably just assume they’ve entered some alternate reality where Christie is a cool dad who doesn’t viciously create traffic to punish a mid-size town in North Jersey.

13. John Kasich

Yes, we all love cute kittens, but this is a bit too easy and it’s un-related to his branding. Then again, Kasich has about as much traction in this Republican primary as a de-clawed kitten, so perhaps this 404 is just his tacit acceptance of reality.

12. Mike Huckabee

This is the photo Mike Huckabee would use if he were on Tinder. Mike, please use a recent photo. No one likes a catfisher.

11. Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum thought it was a good idea to use a 4 year old meme that humanized Hillary. Rick then tries to metaphorically connect search functionality with an oblique reference to her email scandal. Like many things about Rick (his rabid Evangelicalism, that sweater vest), I just don’t get it.

10. Jim Gilmore

Apparently this man is running for president. It is poetic that his logo is so improperly aligned as to almost be off-screen, as this is exactly how the media feels about his campaign.

9. Ben Carson

note hashtag above

Ben Carson is a near-sedate candidate who always manages to bless voters with bizarre rhetorical gems. This 404 page is seemingly indistinctive, so I took a closer look at Carson’s site and found some gold:

  1. Carson’s campaign hashtag is #BC2DC16, which is probably the genetic sequence for a brain virus he’s encountered in the past. From a UX standpoint, that hashtag is a bitch to type on a mobile keyboard.
  2. Some candidates have a fundraising “splash screen”, which serves as an introductory form people see before they can access the full site. This is a terrible user experience. People feel like they have to give their email before they can access the site. What if I simply want to explore Carson’s (likely unintelligible) foreign policy platform? The reason I bring up Carson’s splash screen is for its beautifully absurd messaging. Carson’s Call to Action? “Endorse me and I’ll Send You a Bumper Sticker”.
My sticker’s in the mail

Ben Carson: Improbably still running for President.

8. Donald Trump

Trump’s 404 is incredibly disappointing. For a larger than life personality, we get a very standard 404 page. I was at minimum expecting a bald eagle vomiting American flag fireworks. However, the page’s design is consistent with his overall site and conveys a stateliness I doubt Trump will ever personally exude.

7. Jeb Bush

wat indeed — the Nets?

This 404 is VERY Jeb!. Voters don’t have any idea who the real Jeb!is (does he?). I’m getting strong Erlich Bachman vibes here, so that adds some quality dimensionality to Jeb!’s persona. As he has throughout his entire campaign, Jeb! is desperately trying to connect with someone (anyone!). With this 404, I think it is the “youths”. I will also bet the Jeb! campaign focus-grouped the shit out of that copy.

I will give UX points — Jeb! smartly links back to his home page while keeping the primary navigation at the top of the screen. This link provides users with a “north star” to find their way back, while still maintaining the navigational context of the site. Like his policy proposals, this inclusion reflects an intelligence that is overlooked by everyone except the experts.

6. Hillary Clinton

This 404 is classic Hillary. A pun that’s almost there but not quite, accompanied by some artifact designed to “humanize” her. That being said, Hil is owning that 90s monochromatic sweater / high-waisted shorts ensemble. This picture is also pretty cute, so it’s still a nice reminder she’s not a full-on automaton (auto-matron though? Trying to keep the punny streak alive.)

5. Bernie Sanders

new 404! must have had computer issues before

update! I just went back to Bernie’s page and the main site 404 has an autoplaying video describing how to find your way back. He maintains the primary navigation of his site and keeps his site map in the footer. As an undecided voter, I’m very impressed with the UX of this 404. Video on mobile is a bit more difficult (videos take over the entire screen), but the 404 title still provides the necessary information. This video is unvarnished Bernie, which is always a treat.

previously (the 404 for Bernie’s go.berniesanders.com sub-domain):

Bernie is too busy unshackling the chains of the proletariat to make a creative 404 page. Similar to Bernie’s healthcare plan, the UX of his site was just not thought through. How do people find their way back to a specific section of the site? They’ll have to click the back button to access the primary navigation again. What if people think it’s their computer that’s malfunctioned? How are we going to pass single-payer through a Republican Congress?!

4. Marco Rubio

an accurate reflection of Rubio’s public persona

This 404 is as confusing as Rubio’s contradictory policy platforms. When did football become part of “Coach Marco’s” narrative? Rubio definitely “punted” on this 404 design, but he also “punted” on immigration reform, so points for consistency. Marco Rubio: Consistently Inconsistent.

I would love to see the analytics on this video. Did anyone hit play?

3. Martin O’Malley

This 404 is artfully designed + beautifully representative of his campaign. O’Malley has always struck me as the prototypical dad (see: him playing with his band, the O’Malley March). He wears dad jeans! This 404 also contains a very dad-esque joke. Martin O’Malley: America’s Favorite Dad.

Major UX points to the O’Malley campaign for including the lead gen form field above the image. This is solid information hierarchy.

2. Ted Cruz

This video of Cruz cooking bacon with a machine gun nicely reinforces my perception of Ted as a sociopath. More than anything though, I’m kind of grossed out by the fact he actually eats the bacon at the end. I know as much about guns as Cruz knows about structural racism, but wouldn’t there be some kind of residue on that bacon? You have to feel for the Cruz kids here, because their dad probably makes them sit at the table until they finish all of their food.

  1. Rand Paul

I am not a Rand Paul fan and this still made me smile. I’ve always perceived Rand as a one-note candidate and he hammers that home here. He’s completely on-message with the taunting copy and a smirk that fits his anti-establishment persona well.

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That’s it! This was all meant in good fun. Feel free to leave great 404 examples in the comments (political or otherwise).

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