The White House Website is…COOL!?

by Megan Slick January 23rd, 2009 

I'll be honest, until today, I've never been compelled to visit the White House website. I think I visited it during the whole Google Bomb miserable failure escapade but that was about it. While reading Technoroti, my interest was peaked by a post about Obama's revamping of the site. Shock and pride were my reactions while viewing the site. Our country's website looks pretty darn awesome! So I started poking around. There was already four blog posts for January 20th! The first post stated the following:

One of the first changes is the White House's new website, which will serve as a place for the President and his administration to connect with the rest of the nation and the world.

President Obama actually wants to connect with us. Now, no matter what side of the political spectrum you fall on, it must make you feel good that your president actually wants to connect with you. It sure makes me like him a lot more. This got me thinking about business websites. If the President of the United States is connecting with the nation and world why is it so difficult for business websites to do so?

The first blog post on the White House website outlined three priorities that the administration has for the website: communication, transparency and participation. These are three priorities that every website should have. Under communication, it states, Americans are eager for information… Your customers are eager for information. Your website is the perfect medium for timely and much needed communication with your customers.

The administration says the website's transparency is …our efforts to provide a window for all Americans into the business of the government. Your website can offer the same window for your customers into the business of your business. If you are open and honest with your customers it makes them feel like they are supporting people, not a machine. Everyone knows no business or person is perfect. If businesses would stop setting people up to expect perfection they would be more forgiving. Transparency creates understanding, compassion and loyalty to your business/product.

Another shocker, President Obama and his new administration don't seem to be afraid of us. In fact they say they want our participation! Citizen participation will be a priority for the Administration, and the internet will play an important role in that. It is refreshing that they are backing up their promises for communication and transparency, so much so that they are asking for feedback. So many corporate websites show a clear aversion to customer feedback and involvement. Why? [Me thinks you might be doing something wrong if you are afraid of your customers...]

And the biggest shocker of them all, which illustrates the truth behind the promise of communication, transparency and participation, the President is doing the following:

One significant addition to WhiteHouse.gov reflects a campaign promise from the President: we will publish all non-emergency legislation to the website for five days, and allow the public to review and comment before the President signs it.

Have you ever considered asking your customers what they want? Instead of paying for focus groups and high priced consultants, you can ask your customers on your website what they think and want. You might find that you get better information and that your customers will feel honored to provide feedback.

Some other awesome features of the website are: video addresses every Saturday morning from President Obama, a slideshow of presidential pets, in depth information on the Obama-Biden agenda, and much more! Check out the White House website, ASAP! While you are there, think about how you can make your website a forum for communication, transparency and participation. These three little nuggets will increase the effectiveness of your website and bolster customer loyalty.

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8 Responses to “The White House Website is…COOL!?”

  1. John Hunter says:

    I agree they have done a good job and quickly. And they have followed many good coding practices. It doesn't fail without javascript like some sites do (see NASA, for example). They have intelligent redirects for old links that are no longer valid due to the new site structure…

  2. Roofing Guy says:

    I was kind of freaking out too. It makes me wonder about a lot of things. I'm neither a Dem or Repub, although fairly conservative.

    If Obama stays in for 8 years, the USA will be in a vastly superior technological age. Good yet scary.

    BTW, the post gave me some good ideas for my website.

  3. Great post, Megan. You're right: the best businesses will be adopting the same practices as the best politicians. In both cases, the poorer examples do not want this interaction with their 'customers' and reply on whatever power they think they have to impose their control. However we're in the 'Yes We Can' era and the old rules will work less and less effectively.

  4. Ruud says:

    I wonder if this kind of transparency (and participation) is something all brands can handle. It takes having people out there and smaller brands might not be able to pay for that.

  5. The new White House administration is really paving a nice road for all future politicians. The race in 2012 will have such a large online component to it. I wouldn't be surprised if politicians who plan on running then are already starting to plant seeds.

  6. Scott Fish says:

    Hey Megan! I'm glad you wrote about this! I really like how Obama is integrating social media and video into the whitehouse's site. I feel like we have the first truly digital president and will have the first truly digital government.

  7. Megan Slick says:

    Roofing Guy, I'm so glad that you got some ideas for your website from the post!

    Thank you everyone for the great feedback.

    Ruud, I think you are right but I think that large brands are going to have just as many problems making their website a forum for communication, transparency and participation. Large brands are bogged down by legal restrictions and processes that take months (sometimes years) to make a small change. Small brands are going to struggle with the financial aspects but they are more nibble in making changes and adapting to new trends.

  8. Colleen says:

    Doesn't surprise me Obama has placed a priority on the White House website, given the priority he put on his online presence during the election. Nice post! :)