Political Information.com is a targeted search engine for politics and policy. e.designs was involved very early in the process of building the search engine in the spring of 1999, helping to determine the site's content and market niche. We also worked with Pol Info technical staff to select and prepare the search software that would power the site.
Pol Info has turned out to be a very involved project in part because of its advanced features. As an example, e.designs has had to create site layouts that work with several different database-driven page generating programs. Since the core of the site is a set of search engines, the individual pages are created on-the-fly as users look for information. The site links section (over 200 pages and 1800+ links) is also actively regenerated from a database every time the list is updated.
Adding to the challenge, each program has different requirements for the page templates. e.designs staff would have to deconstruct the templates in different ways for each active feature, even though the resulting pages look the same to users.
The site also has to be capable of growth. Since the site editors add new features constantly to attract readers, the layout and information architecture need to be easily expandable.
e.designs has been equal to the challenge. First, we created a logo for the site, then used it as an anchor for the overall design. Then, we fleshed out the layout with the features originally envisioned for the site. Finally, we worked with Pol Info staff to write page content and integrate the page templates into the database-driven sections of the site.
Once site construction was complete, we developed a marketing plan and helped implement it, writing press releases and building partnerships with other political websites. After Pol Info had been live for six months, we redesigned the page layout to reflect user comments and the need for even more features.
e.designs has also been integral in redefining the site's core mission. After several months of operation, it became clear that the political web marketplace was very crowded. Despite its powerful search features, Pol Info would have a difficult time being noticed in the throng.
e.designs worked with Pol Info management to change the site from just a reader destination into a vendor of services to other websites: the site now licenses its searches to other political web portals.
These licensing arrangements bring in something rare on the political web: revenue. They have also opened the door to Political Information.com building non-political search engines for other portals, which promises to become an important core mission in the future.
Political Information.com has proven to be a very successful site. A Netscape Netcenter Cool Site, a USA Today Hot Site, it was also called one of the Neat Ideas of 1999 by a prominent Internet political newsletter. And its licensing and custom search solutions businesses are bringing in steady revenue.