The last time we looked in on the Republican Primary candidates’ websites, the initial goal was to see if the first debate resulted in any performance snafus due to increased traffic. Obviously every candidate wants to drive potential donors to their websites, and there’s no better time for them to do it than when they’re in front of a national television audience. That didn’t turn out to be the case, as there were no significant performance spikes while the candidates were on stage.
What we saw instead were several mistakes in page construction and optimization among the different candidates, most notably a glut of huge elements like videos and high-res images. These dramatically increase the size of the pages, and not surprisingly cause the sites to load much slower than they could be.
After conducting the tests under the same conditions after Wednesday night’s debate, some candidates have learned their lessons, but others seem content to keep making the same mistakes.
Most notably, every single candidate with the exception of Ben Carson had their website get heavier, some of them absurdly so. For instance, Mike Huckabee’s site more than quadrupled in size, going from an average of 1.50 MB in August to 6.02 MB on Wednesday. Another notable increase came from Rand Paul, whose page size went from 3.30 MB to 5.46 MB.
But the real performance faux pas once again belonged to Scott Walker and Jeb Bush. The last time, both governors had huge videos on their homepages, which drove load times way up, and this time was no different. To be fair, Bush’s web team again anticipated problems with traffic increases and removed the video from the page while the debate was on air before putting it back up after it was over. But the best thing from a performance standpoint would be to compress it so that it doesn’t send users’ browsers into overdrive.
As for the load times themselves, Donald Trump, the leader in the polls, once again came in with the fastest site and Marco Rubio with the second fastest (despite the latter once again having an extremely heavy homepage). And Carly Fiorina, who was not included in the first primetime debate and therefore not in our study, had a strong debut with the lightest site that was also the third-fastest. Meanwhile, Scott Walker’s site was painfully slow, taking just under six seconds before a user could interact with it.
This time around, we also made a point to look at the number of objects on each homepage, as well as the number of hosts that the site has to connect to. Here too, Trump came in with the best numbers by a wide margin, and Walker last.
The next debate is scheduled for just before Halloween on Wednesday, October 28, so check back then to see how scary the performance issues have gotten.