Looking Back at 14 Years of White House Website Designs…in Pictures

January 26, 2009
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There’s been a lot of talk over the past week about the new look of WhiteHouse.gov, from its blue hues to change.gov-inspired blog (this and other screen shots can be zoomed-in by clicking on them):

Jon Henke summarizes the key issues about the Bush to Obama layout and concludes that the goal of the Obama Administration […]

Thank you for reading my article. If you enjoyed it, please consider receiving more strategies and tips by feed reader or email. If you use Twitter, I am at @ariherzog.

There’s been a lot of talk over the past week about the new look of WhiteHouse.gov, from its blue hues to change.gov-inspired blog (this and other screen shots can be zoomed-in by clicking on them):

Whitehouse.gov in January 2009

Jon Henke summarizes the key issues about the Bush to Obama layout and concludes that the goal of the Obama Administration online should be to bring government infrastructure up to speed on technological innovations, not to align its online space with current internet standards.

The Obama team doesn’t need to focus on bringing new, cutting edge ideas to the internet.  They need to focus on bringing the government up to speed on the things that are already commonplace for average people on the internet.

I agree, as it relates to a comment I added on Adriel Hampton’s blog a few days ago about so-called Government 2.0 engagement.

To better understand my and Henke’s perspective, let’s rewind time and see what the presidential website looked like over the years…

Beginning with the Clinton Administration in 1998, you can see the site was very vanilla with simple links aligned along the left margin.

Whitehouse.gov in December 1998

In 2000, the layout shifted with center-justified content.

Whitehouse.gov in February 2000

A year later, with George W. Bush entering office and the White House shifting political parties, the website undergoes a drastic change.

Whitehouse.gov in February 2001

During GWB’s second year as President, the site underwent another drastic change.

Whitehouse.gov in January 2002

Subsequent years of the eight-year Bush Administration saw slight changes in the order of content in the left sidebar, such as this view from 2005:

Whitehouse.gov in April 2005

Another shift from two columns to three occurred in 2007:

Whitehouse.gov in March 2007

My guess is nobody outside of the White House really knows what whitehouse.gov will look like in three months, six months, or two years down the road. Maybe they don’t know. As Saul Hansell opined in the New York Times a few days ago:

…there is the lingering question about how many of the Web site’s lofty aspirations will survive the rough work of governing in a complex world and cynical capital. But Mr. Obama underscored his commitment to transparency in his inaugural address…

Time will tell.

Credit for the above screen shots goes to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, via web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.whitehouse.gov. If you are curious what websites look like on given days in the past, the Internet Archive is the place to go.

Thank you for reading my article. If you enjoyed it, please consider receiving more strategies and tips by feed reader or email. If you use Twitter, I am at @ariherzog.


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