Democrats' Web Site Outpaces GOP

FRAMINGHAM (08/22/2000) - The Democratic National Committee's http://www.dems2000.com/ Web site significantly outperformed the Republican National Committee's site, gopconvention.com during the respective conventions, according to a consulting firm report.

Allen Tsai, product manager of public services at San Mateo-Calif. based Keynote Systems Inc., said that on average, it took about 50 seconds to download the Republican convention page and about 5 seconds for users to access the Democrat convention site.

During the four days of each convention from noon to 10 p.m., Keynote's computers distributed in 25 cities nationwide took a measurement of how long it took to download both the Republican and Democrat sites. The computers work off T1 lines, so the data was recorded in the best-case scenario.

Both sites are large, he said. The Republican site is about 320KB and the Democrat site is about 170KB -- just for the home pages. The larger the site and the more content on each page make the download time longer, Tsai added.

Although design elements often cause slow connections, there are other factors, such as the amount of traffic on a site, that cause slowness.

Also, when Republican candidate George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore delivered their acceptance speeches, their party's respective sites slowed down considerably, he said.

Consumers and the public are now expecting a certain amount of quality associated with Web pages that even government sites need to respond to, Tsai said. "It's no longer acceptable to say, 'This [Web site] isn't mission critical, we aren't Amazon,' " he added.

Its hard to say if the public will wait for a site to download, Tsai said. The Internet industry throws around the "eight- second rule," which means that a user will wait only eight seconds for a page to download before terminating the process. But that's not always the situation, he said.

Tsai recommends that all Web sites look at load testing before launching sites so they can deal with problems that might cause slow downloads.

Naz Nageer, chief technology officer for the Democratic National Committee, said the goal was to make the convention site as easy to maneuver as possible.

Nageer said the Web staff designed the site with static pages instead of dynamic pages, because the static pages take up less space and take less time to download.

He also said they used content management and had about 30 cache servers spread throughout the country. This way, the content was in close proximity to the users.

Nageer stressed that the goal was to make the Web site accessible. The site was well received, Nageer said. About 40 million people checked out www.dems2000.com.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee said its permanent site, www.rnc.org, has undergone many changes to make it more negotiable and accessible. He stressed that a user-friendly Web site is important to the committee. After attempts over several days, no one from the Web staff that maintained the Republican's convention Web site was available for comment.

Meanwhile, officials from both parties said their convention sites will be shut down by the end of August while both election sites will remain active through November.

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