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Get It Done

2008 September 9

still shot of EPA home page header

About the author: Jeffrey Levy joined EPA in 1993 to help protect the ozone layer. He is now the National Web Content Manager.

Today, we launched a new design for our Web site’s home page and a bunch of pages that support it. (This is where I was going to thank everyone who contributed, but I ran out of space.) I’m pretty excited about it, but why should you care?

The #1 reason is that it’s easier to do whatever it is you wanted to do. We know your idea of fun isn’t cruising EPA’s Web site. So how have we learned what you want? We looked at our search logs, conducted focus groups, and did surveys. And we talked about what each of our many audiences would want to do on our site.

Now, we haven’t yet converted the entire site. That’s because we’re working to clean up the rest of the site (which is more than 500,000 pages), getting rid of old stuff, rewriting material that looks like it was pulled from a legal textbook, etc. As that gets done, we’ll see about using the new design.

Enough theory. Here are some things I think are especially cool, most of which we’ve never done before:

I hope you enjoy the new look; it’s just one of many projects we’ve got in the works, like creating a site for mobile phones and exploring social media like YouTube. And let us know how we can use the Web even better to help you get things done, either in a comment here or using the form on our sneak preview page.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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17 Responses leave one →
  1. Alex, aka SocialButterfly permalink
    September 9, 2008

    Congrats on the new site! I really like all the features. And, how you’ve made the site more Web 2.0. I definitely understand that challenge as a government agency! Nice work!

  2. Anonymous permalink
    September 9, 2008

    When accessing the new epa site, using the EPA Lotus notes based browser, I encountered numerous Internet Explorer Script errors. This is very disruptive and annoying.

  3. Tech Writer permalink
    September 9, 2008

    I tried to log on to the new web site several times and stared at a blank screen. I never did connect.

  4. Candy permalink
    September 9, 2008

    Although, the new design looks good it takes forever to load. I work in the environmental field and so I am constantly on the EPA website. I can not tell you how frustrated I have gotten over this yesterday and today.

  5. Anonymous permalink
    September 9, 2008

    I use assistive devices to access web content. Is this website 508 compliant?

  6. Spark permalink
    September 9, 2008

    I second what Alex says: it seems like governments are more reluctant to get into the mainstream multimedia. Good Job on the new look, Mr Levy.

    Isn’t it a Govn Org’s goal to be able to update the public on policies as they take shape?

    I work for a small local government/MPO in South Carolina and am trying to keep the blogging public informed while connecting local bloggers together (www.florenceco.blogspot.com). Sharing photos and plans with the potential for feedback at every entry while being able to search the history of how that plan took shape – good stuff!

    Of course, this is only one outreach tool, and I know that those that read the blog (about 35% new visitors) are only those with internet access which may limit it’s range to the more tech savy population.

    Keep up the great work!

  7. Brian Wegener permalink
    September 9, 2008

    The page is really missing information about one of the biggest water pollution issues in the nation – urban runoff. This would be a good place to educate the public about low impact development techniques: pervious pavement, greenroofs, rain gardens, cisterns etc.

  8. Jeffrey Levy permalink*
    September 9, 2008

    Thanks much for the comments, folks! A totally new design will take some getting used to, no doubt. The idea is that our new approach will make it more intuitive for most people than the old design, but simply changing it means our experienced visitors need to learn their way around.

    The design should be 100% accessible. Please use the form on our sneak preview site to let us know if you run into trouble.

    I’m not sure what to say about the site never connecting. It seems to be working for others. I wonder whether there’s just a network hiccup that wasn’t related to the new design? If you continue to have difficulty connecting, please let us know on the sneak preview page.

    For those frustrated by load times, I hope the improvements in navigation and usability will help you, and that it’ll get faster as you come back because of caching. The new design is “heavier” in terms of total page load, but we wanted to use modern design elements to get as much info as possible into the home page.

    For anyone using Lotus Notes to access the site, I suspect you’re within EPA. I highly recommend using another browser, like EPA’s internal standard browser, IE, or Firefox. The Notes browser is notoriously bad about following Web standards. We’ve tested the site in Windows IE 6 and 7 and Firefox, and Safari and Firefox on a Mac, and it works fine in all of those.

  9. Jeffrey Levy permalink*
    September 9, 2008

    Thanks for alerting us and for working with me late today to figure out what’s going on. Together, we figured out it’s something local on your computer related to the Flash player. Thanks!

  10. Jeffrey Levy permalink*
    September 9, 2008

    Thanks for alerting us and for working with me to figure out what’s going on. Based on your results, those of Candy below, and another person, I’m pretty sure it’s something local on your computer related to the Flash player. Please ask tech support to reinstall Flash and let me know vial email whether that fixes it. Thanks!

  11. Jeffrey Levy permalink*
    September 9, 2008

    Update: it seems like the page loading problems are local, based on additional testing with the folks who were having trouble and the fact that we’ve received many comments via email that didn’t mention any page loading problems.

    If you’re reading this and do run into trouble loading our home page, please try reinstalling Flash and see whether that fixes it. If not, please leave a comment and leave your email address; we won’t publish it, but I’ll contact you.

    Thanks again!

  12. Jim Pike permalink
    September 10, 2008

    At last – an EPA web that looks like it was not designed by straight men.

  13. Mike Hebert permalink
    September 12, 2008

    I notice that EPA has revamped their homepage. I have two adverse comments, but first, on the positive side, the new epa homepage looks pretty…

    now for the bad news:

    1) Where is the “Recent Additions” link?!?!?! – I check this EVERY WORKING DAY to see if there are any pertinent items I should focus on.

    2) Where is the “Contact the webmaster” link for just this kind of feedback?!?!?!?!

    For that matter – EVERY major webpage for an office or work group should have a working “recent updates” link.

    Duh!

  14. jlevy permalink*
    September 12, 2008

    Hi Mike.

    Thanks for letting us know the recent additions page is useful to you. It’s not actually all that clear that many people use it, and it’s a good bit of work to keep it current. So we’re evaluating whether to add it back, and your comment is good input to that decision.

    There’s a link “contact us” at the bottom left of every page (the old home page had one at the bottom, too). Over on the right side of that page is a link to report problems or suggestions. We used to have a form for any kind of contact, but what we found was that the overwhelming majority of messages we received were questions or comments about EPA in general, not specific issues with the Web site.

    However, I can imagine that during this initial launch period, it’s more likely people will want to comment on the new design, so we’ll add a link over on the left to make it more obvious.

  15. Darryl Luscombe permalink
    September 15, 2008

    The new design looks great! But I do have to echo the recommendation for the return of the “Recent Additions” link. This is (was?) always my first point of call on the EPA homepage to catch up on major releases of information, oftentimes from areas of the site that I don’t necessarily visit regularly. So please accept another vote for its return to the new look EPA website…

  16. Jeffrey levy permalink*
    September 15, 2008

    We’ve heard your requests and it’s coming back. :)

    It’s going to be on the “More popular resources” page: http://www.epa.gov/epahome/resource.htm

    But may I also suggest that you bookmark it directly?
    http://www.epa.gov/epahome/recentadditions.htm

  17. Darryl permalink
    September 18, 2008

    Thank you and keep up the great work!

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