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A New Face for EPA

2010 March 23

We’re constantly looking for ways to make it easier for you to do what you want on our Web site, and we’re just starting a major overhaul. But is large (500,000 pages) and complex (hundreds of smaller sites), so it’ll take time.

sneakpeekWe’re taking small steps, though, and the first is a new home page. The main issue with the current home page is that it lacks visual and content prioritization, which makes it challenging to use.

Our design goals are straightforward: help you do what you want while sharing what we’re up to. To figure out your top tasks, we used a lot of data:

  • popular search terms both here and in external search engines
  • a question about top tasks in our online customer satisfaction survey
  • scans that showed where people are clicking on the current home page
  • surveys and focus groups that went into our information strategy

The top tasks, both across all audiences and within specific audiences, are remarkably consistent:

  • learn about environmental issues
  • find out what EPA is doing about an issue (this aligns well with our need to report what we’re up to)
  • learn about your local community

Within the business community, an additional concern is to learn about requirements they have to follow. For parents, finding out what they can do to help and finding information for kids are also top tasks. Nothing overly surprising in these results, but it’s good to have data to confirm what we thought.

Our design approach was to greatly simplify the home page, focusing on these tasks and not trying to do everything.

New features include:

  • A section linking directly to the subjects you search for most. We’ll update this section as things change.
  • A new section on what you can do to protect the environment. We’ll change the contents of this section to match current efforts.
  • New banner layouts that give us more flexibility to tell you what we’re doing.
  • New sections showing our latest announcements and our highest-priority efforts.

We retained several elements that match your top tasks, like MyEnvironment, which lets you search for information about your community. And the tabs at the top will still be there (stay tuned for major enhancements to the content behind all of them). You’ll still be able to quickly link to our social media efforts, information about working here, and other information in the footer.

Again, this is just the first step, and we’ll adjust as we go. We’ve posted the new home page as a sneak peek, and we’d appreciate hearing your thoughts. Have we missed something big? Does it work? Are we achieving our goals? Keep in mind the complexity of our mission and our multiple audiences as you consider the new design. And remember, this is just the home page; we’re also working to improve the entire site.

I’m excited to finally be able to share the hard work of many folks here, and I look forward to hearing your suggestions for how we can do even better!

Check out the sneak peek.

About the author: Jeffrey Levy is EPA’s Director of Web Communications

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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66 Responses leave one →
  1. JHA permalink
    March 29, 2010

    The huge banner is a real turnoff… i’m lucky enough to be using a desktop with an oversized monitor, but i’m curious as to how this layout will work on a laptop or a smartphone monitor? Has this been tested?

  2. Easy Safety School permalink
    March 29, 2010

    I realoly like the new website design. The only issues I have with it are in the banner section. First, I find the text over the image hard to read because of the color and texture of the “dotted background” and I don’t like how the text and text box in the banner reposition themselves before and after each section change.

    Overall it is a very pleasing and clean design.

  3. Cheryl permalink
    March 30, 2010

    First, I just want to say that I love the new format of the scrolling image at the top of the page. I think it’s a great way to really highlight the important events that are happening at the time and makes the page look more modern (not so much like the generic government agency page). I think the footer containing all the social media links is great as well. My one criticism would be that I think four columns below the scrolling image leaves the information looking a bit smashed up against each other and crowded. I agree that this is a much cleaner look than the current homepage but I think a three column format would keep the page from having that cluttered feel. Thanks for the opportunity to provide feedback on the new homepage!

  4. Len Lindsay permalink
    March 30, 2010

    The huge graphic near the top may be a bit too large (others have commented on this already)
    I really like the huge footer with the columns of items.

    I didn’t see anyone else comment on the pixel width of the page though. My monitor is set to 1024 by 768 and the right side of the page is chopped off (have to scroll right to see it).

  5. Steve W permalink
    March 31, 2010

    Thank-you for undoing the attempt of putting everything on the homepage. New sight is cleaner and much crisper. One feature I know some users miss from an earlier iteration was the mass of simple links to various programs and data sources. For folks who need to go to a specific EPA page once or twice a year, that was a stepping off point. Two or three mindless clicks and they were at their destination. Now they have to think how to find their destination.

    A second feature you thankfully have eliminated so far from the new look are any scroll boxes within the page. This may be “fashionable” but is a real pain if the entire page is not displayed at one time. Scrolling past the end of the smaller scroll box, the entire page then moves. I may not notice if my monitor setting were for someone with eyesight twenty years younger.

  6. CBD permalink
    April 1, 2010

    I’m a regular user of the EPA web site, although I only occasionally come in via the front page. The new layout is great, much cleaner and simpler than the last one (which was also a great improvement). The simpler layout makes it easier to quickly scan and navigate.

    A few specific comments:
    – Fed sites are emphasizing “open gov” but I think that’s jargon that most people don’t recognize, thereby increasing the likelihood of users overlooking this important link. (And, “share your ideas” is only one aspect of the open site.)
    – The large rotating images are popular, but on my laptop that’s almost 24% of my screenspace being used for very little content.
    – EPA collects or houses vast amounts of environmental data, but the “data” link is buried and almost lost.
    – The latest announcements and hot topics lists are easy to scan and useful.
    – The A-Z topics link gets a little lost in the middle of the search/advancedsearch links.
    – Thanks for keeping “my environment” visible.

    As a regular user, I appreciate these improvements and hope to see similar improvements in other areas of the EPA’s vast online resources. I know a lot of work went into this! Thanks for posting it to the blog, too.

  7. Hope permalink
    April 5, 2010

    I commend your desire to make the home page more user friendly, but this design goes in the opposite direction. Having such huge banners with overlaid text is unnecessarily busy and poor design in general: it does not have the clean look you are aiming for and reduces legibility. Also, these large banners push much of the page below the fold. With so much information to convey, it’s counterintuitive to introduce an element that displaces so much text. In addition, the lack of any clean navigation is unnerving. As a layperson, I have no idea how to differentiate whether what I am looking for would be in “Learn the Issues” or “Science & Technology” or “Laws & Regulation”. I have to guess. Guessing is not navigation, and just adds more click-throughs and frustration for the user.

    By having such stripped-down navigation, it appears that you’re just hoping the user goes to the Search box. Whether you are relying on the search box or not, the whole design could be much cleaner, have clearer navigation, and have less extraneous use of “pretty pictures”.

  8. Scott permalink
    April 5, 2010

    Had to get one more comment in here and glad “Easy Safety School” has already mentioned it as well: the “dotted” text boxes in the photos are really heard to read. Perhaps go with a smoother, white/opaque look with black text instead.

  9. Mohamed permalink
    May 3, 2010

    It’s clean , but i see it will be much better if the typography enhanced more .

  10. alicia permalink
    August 11, 2010

    I love this stuff free lance writer its so cool and nice, you must try this one!

  11. Anonymous permalink
    August 20, 2010

    As a Utah Graphic Designer who is studying sites for good designs, the new EPA site looks great.

    How involved are they with the oil spill? I’m guessing it’s their main focus right now but there has to be other organizations who are also involved.

  12. ian smalley permalink
    November 2, 2010

    great news! looking forward to seeing how the reorganization of the site will help with the ease of navigation. keep up the good work .

  13. kinni144 permalink
    April 5, 2011

    I agree with Karen, alphabetizing might be good, and would also avoid the appearance that topics are listed in order of priority.
    Good job!

  14. Morgan permalink
    April 12, 2011

    It appears the consensus is that the website is terrific, and I concur with that opinion. This is one of the best government websites I have ever seen! Most websites that represent large organizations are waaaaaay too cluttered, which makes them extremely difficult to navigate. This site was well thought out, and making a selection of an interesting topic or a current news worthy feature, is easy as pie. My hat is off to the folks who designed the site. Terrific job!

  15. May 4, 2012

    The huge banner is a real turnoff… i’m lucky enough to be using a desktop with an oversized monitor, but i’m curious as to how this layout will work on a laptop or a smartphone monitor? Has this been tested?

  16. RD Web Design permalink
    January 20, 2014

    Great post! Keep it up the good work and also keep posting.

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