Campaign in a Bottle

A playful way to get out the vote

Three weeks ago I embarked on a little campaign to garner eyes and votes for my .net Best Site of the Year nomination ( If you look at the 10 nominees in this feature article, you’ll notice I’m the little-engine-that-could in the lineup.


I started sketching ideas that fit thematically with Sophie’s site trying to keep the elements small, simple, and playful.  The “message in a bottle,” the central image, seemed a perfect way to talk to visitors.

But where to go from there?

When we first started talking about her site, Sophie showed me No One Belongs Here More Than You is a website for a book by the same name, but it’s almost not a website at all. It flaunts its spontaneity, almost clumsily, like an awkward impromptu conversation on the subway, but it works — it’s scripted perfectly. Miranda July (and deep down I believe and hope she really did conceive of and create it herself) nails it.

I wanted the messages in the bottle to be spontaneous too, to create a voice and character while still publicizing the competition, and creating an urgency (without feeling forced or forceful). I kept going back to No One Belongs Here, and luckily had Katrina for constant edits.

Then, I refined the illustrations and animations, introducing an Easter Egg or two (e.g. try clicking the seagull as it flies past).

The process took an evening and was pretty enjoyable.

Sharing it

I obviously don’t have anything near the exposure of the other firms or their products, but I was hoping this little site might catch the fancy of a few folks out there.

I began by sending the URL and story off to all of the design zines that had originally featured Two of twelve responded. UnmatchedStyle which I’ve always loved, and which was the first to feature Sophie’s site, quickly tweeted out something really nice. Gene and his team are great.

One Page Love also got back to me with a really encouraging and warm response – their team seems to be really wonderful, and I’m thankful that their feature continues to send good traffic my way daily.

After that it got picked up by a few really active Twitter users like the talented @chriscoyier and thankfully made its way through some design/dev communities.


Success required not only that a lot of users arrived but that users clicked and continued clicking through the messages and eventually clicking to “vote” at one of the various opportunities.

It was simple to have Google Analytics take note of all the user interactions on the page, e.g. when a user:

  1. Arrives
  2. Clicks the bottle (each time is registered by name so it’s easy to see at which point users leaves)
  3. Jumps to vote
  4. Jumps to check out Sophie’s site
  5. Jumps to check out my other work
  6. Jumps to my Twitter account

And because each click of the bottle is noted (“bottle_click_1, bottle_click_2”), I was able to see easily how things were working. Here are the stats as of the final day of voting:

  1. 2,700+ people joined me for this campaign/experiment
  2. 97% began with the first click of the bottle
  3. from that point around 98% of users were curious enough to click the bottle at each message and continue to the next
  4. There’s been between 10% and 20% conversion of users clicking vote at one point
  5. 60,000+ clicks in total. that kind of baffles me.
  6. Users didn’t seem to prefer to vote at any point over another
  7. 57% liked it enough to go all the way through until everything sunk into deep unknown

I think that was pretty good for a first attempt.  Unfortunately there’s no way to know how many users actually voted for “Sophie Hardach” once they arrived at the .net awards site.  Additionally, had I more time it would have been interesting to vary elements and to see how things changed.

It’s doubtful I’ll be anywhere near the big name competition and make it out to the awards ceremony in the UK (voting ends Sept. 30th with the top 3 advancing for judging), but it’s been a fun mini project to take on and monitor over the last few weeks.  

And in case you were worried, I have quite a bit of food on my desert island. You should come visit : )

me know
what you think
just remember i have feelings too