What 2016 Presidential Candidates Can Learn about Site Performance from Online Retailers

Update: February 29th, 2016 10:00pm, Super Tuesday (eve)

Super Tuesday is upon us and all eyes are glued to Election 2016 coverage.  Tomorrow several states hold their primaries and caucuses in what can be a make or break situation for some candidates.  We will be tracking the days events and one of the tools we will be using is a virtual Digital Experience Center (DEC) dashboard.  This view allows us to track the web performance for the candidates sites, social media and internet health.


In terms of the performance of the candidates sites, leading into Super Tuesday, we see that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are running very close to each other, with Hillary Clinton’s site performing slightly faster.


For the Republicans we have seen some big changes in the past week as Ted Cruz’s website performance has dramatically improved.


We will keep watch throughout the day, check back here and follow us on twitter (@dynatrace and @davidlewisjones)

Update: February 10th, 2016 11:30am, New Hampshire Primaries

Changing the view for bit.    Up until now everything we have looked at has been for the traditional “Desktop” pages for the candidates.  Let’s have a look at the Mobile Web Site performance for the candidates.  In this case the tests were executed from the same location, however in this case we used an iPhone 6 device profile.


In this case for the Republican candidates we can see (above) that Donald Trump’s website is the fastest site when loaded on a mobile device.


For the Democratic candidates we see that Bernie sander’s website is the fastest for mobile devices.

Update: February 9th, 2016 8:30am, New Hampshire Primaries

We are still following the 2016 Presidential Election and wanted to provide an update for the New Hampshire Primaries being held today.

Here is a view (what we were seeing at 8pm Monday evening) based on those Republican Candidate’s still in the race for how their web sites are performing.  In terms of average response time Ben Carson’s site is still the fastest at 3.4 seconds over the past week.  Chris Chisties’s site is now the slowest at 8.5 seconds.  this view below shows the performance (response time) for the past week.


In terms of how the Candidate’s sites are being deliver this chart provides some detail around the amount of content being delivered, complexity of the page and the number of third parties (Analytics, Ads, Social Media, etc…) being deployed.


Here is that same view (as of 8pm Monday evening) for the Democratic Candidates.  In this case, Bernie Sanders is 5.7 seconds and Hillary Clinton’s is 6.1 seconds.  The view below shows the performance (response time) for the past week.


In terms of how the Candidate’s sites are being deliver this chart provides some detail around the amount of content being delivered, complexity of the page and the number of third parties (Analytics, Ads, Social Media, etc…) being deployed.


The race is certainly heating up as all eyes turn to New Hampshire.  For some more detail on why we are doing this comparison have a look below.

Update: January 29th, 2016 8:30am, Iowa Caucuses

If you have turned on any news network or visited any news site, you know that the 2016 United States Presidential Election is in full swing. We’ve been tracking the various candidate sites for a while now and are seeing some interesting trends. While the past few days have seen an explosion of media activity leading into the Iowa and New Hampshire caucuses, this election cycle appears to be one of the most competitive in recent memory with the Republican Party having over ten candidates vying to be the official nominee.

Each candidate has spun up a digital presence where all media and social media interactions can point back to their website where they can provide additional personal information, arguments, platform details and fundraising. The last few elections have shown how powerful grassroots fundraising can be for candidates. The candidate’s sites want to convert viewers to get both viewers’ votes and viewers’ money. Social media and traditional advertising is being used is to drive traffic to the candidate’s sites.

The candidates are product

Thinking of it in this fashion, does site performance impact how the candidates are competing with each other?  Let’s have a look at Republican candidate sites since that is the widest most competitive field.


Here is a view over the past 30 days of the remaining Republican candidates web sites.  We see that Ben Carson and Marco Rubio’s sites are performing the fastest, and Rick Santorum and Ted Cruz’s sites are performing the slowest.

If the candidates are product, let’s put this data into perspective from the point of view how online retailers view things.  In the online retail industry, page performance is paramount as studies have shown that if a customer waits more than three seconds for a page to load they are 33% more likely to abandon that page. A recent study we did with an online retailer showed the impact that performance had on conversion.


In this study, we saw that when pages started having poor performance there was a dramatic impact on conversion rates. What this means for the candidates is that viewers and potential contributors may potentially abandon their sites prematurely if they encounter performance issues.

How the sites are delivered plays an important role in end user performance. When we look at the candidate sites in detail we can see some very different delivery strategies. The sites that perform better tend to be better optimized. We look at Key Delivery Indicators (KDIs) to see how these sites have (or have not) been optimized. These KDIs include things like byte count (how much data is transferred when the page is loaded), object and connection count (how complex the page is) and how many hosts are used (this can be third-parties like analytic tracking tools, advertisers, social media, etc.).


All of these factors, including server response times (we will save that topic for a later date) contribute to the performance of these sites. Let’s compare two of these sites to show you what we are talking about.

We will start with the slowest site, which is for Ted Cruz.  Here we used a browser developer tool to show the activity which occurs in the browser when the page loads. We can see the impact of complexity on end-user experience. Several third-parties are introducing blocking JavaScript here, which prevents parts of the page from loading.


Let’s compare this to another site — Donald Trump’s. While not the fastest site, this site has the fewest third-parties.


You can see that by optimizing the site, reducing third-parties and blocking JavaScript (complexity) you can improve end-user experience.

The candidates need to take note and learn from online retailers how to optimize for end use experience. This chart below shows how optimized retail sites provide faster end user experience when compared to non-optimized sites.


The Democratic field is obviously much smaller. Here is a view of how those sites have performed over the past month.


The presidential campaign managers need to look to best practices from the online retail industry. Just because you can use a third-party service (tracking tool, advertiser, social media, etc…) doesn’t mean you should. Candidate sites need to be fully optimized for end-user experience. We will continue to track these sites and talk about the complexity involved in delivering and maintaining these sites as the campaign continues.

David Jones is the Director of Sales Engineering and AIOPs Evangelism for Dynatrace. He has been with Dynatrace for 10 years, and has 20 years’ experience working with web and mobile technologies from the first commercial HTML editor to the latest web delivery platforms and architectures. He has worked with scores of Fortune 500 organizations providing them the most recent industry best practices for web and mobile application delivery. Prior to Dynatrace he has worked at Gomez (Waltham), S1 Corp (Atlanta), Broadvision (Bay Area), Interleaf/Texcel (Waltham), i4i (Toronto) and SoftQuad (Toronto).