When you invite people into your home, you want everything to look nice. You clean up, organize, and do anything you can to make sure everyone has a pleasant experience. Now, imagine inviting millions of people into your home.
That is essentially what IES does every year with its website—we welcome millions of people to our online home so they can find the information, tools, and resources they want and need. A few years ago, we recognized that our home wasn’t the most welcoming place – and we decided to do something about it. Our users said the website was very text heavy and almost impossible to use on a mobile device, which is how an increasing number of users are visiting. And they said the way our site was organized made it hard for users to find what they were looking for and see the connections among our work.
Today, I am proud to announce that our home renovation has begun as we launch the first phase of a major website redesign that uses a more attractive, contemporary design, is mobile-friendly, and is better organized, including a new drop down navigation menu that makes it easier for our users to find what they are looking for.
The first phase updates our five top-level pages—the IES home page (pictured) and the landing pages for our four centers: the National Center for Education Research (NCER), the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE); and the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER). For a comparison, here's a screenshot of the old website.
To develop the design of the new website, we spoke to focus groups of users, looked at data and analytics, and studied trends in web design. We think the result is a vast improvement over the previous site, and it will only get better over time. In the coming weeks and months we will update other pages, such as our Standards and Review Office, research programs, evaluation studies, the National Library of Education, and more.
To improve the user experience, we also will develop some new pages and content demonstrating the connection and continuity of the work that IES is doing. These include:
- Topic pages: These pages will bring together a broad array of research, evaluation, and statistics around a specific topic, such as early childhood education and high school graduation;
- A communications hub: A site where all of the latest IES news, press releases, and blogs will be hosted and easy to find; and
- An improved training site and events calendar: Information that better displays and tracks training opportunities and events.
Anyone who has been involved in a website redesign knows it is not easy. While only a handful of pages have launched today, it took a long time and a lot of effort to get to this point. I want to thank the many IES staff members and contractors who have developed and built our new site and congratulate them on a job well done. It will take us a while to fully update the website since it contains thousands and thousands of pages.
And, as with any new website, there may be some hiccups that will require further tweaking. If you see anything on our site that needs attention, please email us at Contact.IES@ed.gov and include a link to the content.
The new website is an important part of our overall efforts to improve our dissemination of the research, resources, and tools we support and develop. As I wrote in a recent piece on the Evidence Speaks website, progress is being made in this area, but we still have a lot of work to do before research is used on an everyday basis in the classroom and on campuses. In the coming months, IES will continue to make improvements to our online presences and outreach:
- In May, we will launch an IES Facebook page to better engage our community and share the work of IES on social media (UPDATE: The Facebook page has launched). We have already made improvements to our social media outreach on Twitter, and have added about 1,000 followers to the @IESResearch twitter feed this year, alone;
- In the fall, we will unveil a major redesign of the What Works Clearinghouse website and significant improvements to the Find What Works tool so it is easier to locate interventions and programs that make a difference; and
- Early next year, we expect to launch a major overhaul of the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) websites to align with the start of the new REL contracts. The RELs are our primary dissemination network, and over the past five years have undertaken many new strategies for connecting research to policy and practice. The new REL contracts and website will further advance that work.
If you have other ideas for dissemination or outreach, please share them with us. We are always trying to improve. You can email our Communications Director, Dana Tofig, at firstname.lastname@example.org.