Energy wires Web portal to fuel easy user access
- By Judi Hasson
- Oct 02, 2000
The Energy Department unveils a new portal today that will make it easier
for people to find information with a click of their mouse from tips on
cutting energy costs to saving the environment.
Gone is the department's stodgy Web site (www.doe.gov) with canned news
releases, speeches from the DOE secretary and a bureaucratic tone that provided
statements but little help for the customer.
Taking the old site's place is Energy.gov (www.energy.gov), which features a state-of-the-art design that makes the wide range of department information
"Energy is everywhere. It's your health, your transportation and your
school. It's your world. It's your future," said one top DOE official who
worked on the project.
"The philosophy was to present it in a way that was not intimidating,"
said Michael Schafer, director of new media at Supon Design Group, Washington,
D.C. "We took the headache out of finding what they are looking for."
The biggest task was designing a site that could be easily used by scientists
as well as ordinary consumers, Schafer said.
And it included working on a shoestring budget. DOE's Office of Consumer
Information used existing resources and spent about $200,000 for the design.
The eight-month project was led by Kathleen McShea, director of DOE's Office
of Consumer Information.
Among the features of Energy.gov is an e-mail service that provides
updates on the current price of diesel fuel. With the oil crunch weighing
on the economy, it gives truckers timely information at their fingertips
so they can calculate fuel surcharges on deliverable goods. Though the service
has been available since 1994, when the Energy Information Administration
went online, EIA spokesman Jonathan Cogan said the site is now getting thousands
of hits from truckers because of the rising price of oil.
Energy.gov has received high marks from all of those who have navigated
their way through the site, including focus groups asked to evaluate the
design. DOE said its site is sensitive to the needs of the disabled and
protects the privacy of users. It is possible to find information on the
portal in different ways, ranging from a site map to a search button. The
portal also includes more than 800 links to relevant sites.
"We had a tricky issue on the table the site had to be accessible
to everybody. That included the everyday Joe to the more educated individual
like a scientist or researcher. [We wanted] a friendly, non-intimidating,
less formal approach," a DOE official said.
Rich Kellett, co-chairman of the CIO Council's Webmaster subcommittee,
said, "It looks very customer-oriented in that they are trying to help you
find people or information that you need. It's very quick to navigate through
and very intuitive.
"You don't need a class" to use it, he said. "They have structured a
lot of information in a narrow space."