An online overhaul
An interdisciplinary team of staffers from across the organization is forging ahead with an eye-catching Web redesign. Its goal: produce a single umbrella site for UCAR, NCAR, and UOP that engages the public while making information more readily available to scientific and academic users.
“UCAR, NCAR, and UOP offer world-class facilities and world-class science,” explains Catherine Shea of the NCAR director’s office, who is serving as co-chair of the Web Outreach, Redesign and Development (WORD) team. “It’s important that our Web presence reflects that. We want Web users to gain a sense of the breadth of our work when they first arrive at the home page.”
One of NCAR’s strategic initiatives is bolstering “cyber-infrastructure,” and NCAR director Tim Killeen has put a high priority on the Web redesign. The UCAR President’s Council endorsed the redesign project last month amid high expectations for raising the profile of the organization’s research.
The current Web site design is several years old, a considerable period of time in the fast-changing environment of the World Wide Web. The home page directs users to divisions and programs within each of the three organizations, but users may not know where to find information about specific types of research.
The new site will invert that design, emphasizing research initiatives and various fields of atmospheric science rather than organizational structure. “We’re moving from three sites that are focused on how we are organized to one site focused on the compelling research and work going on here,” says Markus Stobbs, co-chair of the WORD group.
The home page, which is still under construction, will likely link to a variety of appropriate topics for diverse audiences. A prototype home page currently features an article about solar variation, a profile of a staff scientist, overviews of the Climate and Global Dynamics Division and the Joint Office for Science Support, recent news about the organization, and a sample “fast fact” (how ozone is created). Once the Web site is launched, these topics will be rotated every month to keep the site fresh.
Viewers will have the ability to navigate to pages designed for their specific needs. The Web site will incorporate specialized pages for six distinct audiences: the science-literate public, the research community, students and educators, news media, UCAR member universities, and internal staff.
Individual divisions and offices will have the option of retaining their current Web designs or modifying their pages based on the redesign. “While the scope of our work ends with those top-level pages,” Catherine says, “several people have already approached the WORD group to find out when the new design will be available so they can incorporate it in their own designs.”
The WORD team expects to get feedback from user groups this fall, and to create an interactive prototype as early as January for the American Meteorological Society conference. If all goes well, UCAR, NCAR, and UOP will have a new top-level Web site in the first part of next year. •David Hosansky