EPA Web

A New Face for EPA

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 epa.gov 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

http://www.epa.gov/epahome/sneak.html

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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Tales of a Specialized Generalist

About the author: Karen Reshkin manages the Web site in EPA’s Chicago office. She’s been there since 1991, and can still remember life before the Internet.

federal messenger envelopeI’ve worked at US EPA since the early 90s. I must enjoy my work, because I’m always surprised to watch the years mount up.

A more unsettling surprise comes when people ask me about EPA’s policies or recent actions that get into the news. More often than I like to admit, my answer is, “I don’t know.”

Why not? Well, I don’t follow news as closely as I probably should. But also, my job at EPA is mainly concerned with our Web site. I can help you find info on epa.gov, or tell you all about our Web standards (though you might never ask), but I can’t always tell you what was in the news release I posted yesterday.

One of the things I know best, oddly, is what we don’t do. Michelangelo is credited with saying that when creating a sculpture, he’d start with a block of stone and chip away everything that didn’t look like a horse (or an elephant, or an angel, depending on who’s telling the story). When I worked answering our hotline, I found that many calls and emails were “wrong numbers” – people contacting us for things we don’t do. For example, if you can’t renew your license plates because you didn’t get an emissions test for your vehicle, you’ll need to contact your state transportation or environmental department, not US EPA.

When I was invited to write for this blog, I decided to repair my ignorance. I plan to find out about some of the things that EPA does and tell about them as plainly as I can. It’s sort of the “inside outsider” approach. I’ll also do some sculpting and tell you about a few things you might think we handle, but we really don’t.

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.