The Obama campaign's Search Engine to Nowhere

On the whole, Barack Obama's presidential campaign is wonderfully internet-savvy. The new Obama iPhone app is getting rave reviews. They "get it" about the iPhone. Their YouTube video foreshadowing a tough attack over John McCain's Keating scandal is just the right buildup. They "get it" about online video.

However, they evidently do not "get it" about search. An Obama campaign site called starts with a good idea. There is one page for each of 13 issue categories -- foreign policy, homeland security, rural issues, and so on. Each page contains three claims criticizing McCain's record, each with a link to further detail. But where it goes awry is in the UI. The small error is that font size is so out of control that, with only three bullet points to present, they commonly get two "below the fold." The big error is that the site features, right in the center of its home page, possibly the worst search engine I have ever seen.

How bad is it? Well, in every case the search result takes you to one of the 13 issue pages or, which is completely terrible, leaves you stranded on top page with no result at all. For example, results include:

  • Iraq -- the Foreign Policy page, which makes significant mention of Iraq
  • Iran -- the Foreign Policy page, which makes no mention of Iran
  • terrorism -- nothing whatsoever (neither Homeland Security nor Foreign Policy)
  • alternative energy -- nothing whatsoever (even though the first entry on the Energy & Environment page is about alternative energy)
  • foo -- the Rural Issues page

Edit:  They keep doing it!  Here's an even worse example, on a site that's much more important to them.

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