After much anticipation and fanfare, the new design for the website of the French presidency, Elysee.fr, drew hilarity in the French twitto-blogosphere because it is such a blatant ripoff of WhiteHouse.gov‘s own redesign.
The look, feel, and the editorial choices are obviously and shamelessly lifted from the redesign of WhiteHouse.gov that occurred after Barack Obama took office in 2009. An online prankster almost immediately created whiteelysee.fr, which shows the two side by side.
The first redesign of Elysee.fr, which occurred in 2007 after Nicolas Sarkozy was elected, was also widely panned, because it was simply a rehash of his campaign website, which was almost wholly focused on video content and not much else. Imagine if at midnight on January 10, 2009, WhiteHouse.gov had turned into BarackObama.com with only a logo change.
The French presidency (and government) has pretty much always been clueless about the Internet. As Nicolas Vanbremeersch, a prominent online communications consultant and blogger reminds us (Fr), in 1997 the first Elysee.fr website was unveiled to much fanfare. It included only a picture of a red carpet leading up to the stairs of the Elysee Palace, with a handwritten note from the President. Pranksters then put up a replica of the site at Elysee.org, where the President’s note had been photoshopped to read obscene language. The web guys at the Presidency hadn’t even bothered to register alternative domain names, and Elysee.org ended up ranking higher on search engines than the actual official website.
As Vanbremeersch points out, this shows the “contempt … of (this) institution towards that mandatory, pain-in-the-arse … thing that is the web. … Does one think that the Elysee could buy cars that are replicas of American ones, or forget to put proper stamps on official invitations? These are serious things. The web? Obviously not.”