“Slow and steady” quickly becomes a losing campaign strategy when potential donors and voters are forced to wait for a candidate’s website to load. That may have been the case for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, whose campaign website mikehuckabee.com crashed multiple times in the hours surrounding the official announcement of his presidential bid on Tuesday – a stumble that likely cost the Republican both visitors and support, and set a new low bar for 2016 election tech.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Huckabee website was functioning and running a countdown clock set to the former governor’s announcement speech. At the time of the scheduled event, the website’s first major glitch appeared as a 503 service error. Huckabee’s official Twitter account pinned a tweet at the top with a link and a call to action letting people know where to watch the event live. But the tweet remained pinned long after the announcement ended, suggesting that no one was updating the site in real time.
With his candidacy less than 30 minutes old, Huckabee had forced some digital natives off the Internet and in search of a TV screen.
Skipping the live stream altogether, a visitor to the website’s “issue” page was unlikely to fair any better. That page too was riddled with errors and running at what Alexa Analytics deemed a “very slow” load speed, worse than 83% of all other websites measured at the time. Aside from the mashup of what appeared to be icons and text on the top left corner of the page, the bigger problem was that the issues either didn’t load completely or were somewhat illegible.
No 2016 digital roll-out has been without problems: Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas launched an unsecured site, Sen. Rand Paul misspelled “education” on his education page, and Carly Fiorina didn’t buy all the right domain names. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton endured mocking for her red-white-and-blue capital H campaign logo and font.
Huckabee’s start, however, appears to be the rockiest so far. Today’s launch should prompt digital election teams to rethink the testing and debugging phase of their web development process before inviting the public in.