CDC overhauling Web site

CDC Web site

ATLANTA — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is redesigning its Web site to allow for easier access to information, reflecting the agency's increased visibility to the public.

"The Web is our face," said Jason Bonander, a lead information technology specialist at CDC. "It's imperative that we continue to evaluate what our needs are."

The CDC historically has been a wholesaler of information, Bonander said, providing statistics and reports primarily to the medical community. In the past two years, the agency has changed into a retailer of information, also providing up-to-date general information to the public, which requires a site that is readable and searchable in different languages and in understandable terms.

"We still need to package information for our public health partners, but we also need to provide information to the public," he said.

For example, during the April outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), CDC's Web site received 17.5 million visitors — compared with 5.4 million visitors in all of fiscal 2002. During the anthrax attacks in October 2001, the site saw 9.1 million visitors.

The CDC embarked on the redesign plan about four and a half years ago, including three years of initial research. Officials saw the need to reorganize the 130,000 pages of information on the site based on how visitors accessed information.

The Web site is shaped around the different organizations of the agency, such as the National Centers for Infectious Diseases. Users typically visit the site for information on a particular topic, such as smallpox, and often that information is distributed across several areas. Users are not able to gather comprehensive information in the way the site is constructed, Bonander said.

"It's very clear we needed to shift the Web site into a topic-based organization," he said. "It's how people look for information."

Information on the site changes so rapidly, adding to the complexity of the Web site design. With that comes the need to build a robust content management system to allow for fast and easy dissemination of the latest information, said Marc Overcash, a lead IT specialist for CDC and partner in the redesign effort.

"We're trying to position ourselves to have a very robust infrastructure," Overcash said. "We're trying to enable the ability to share information internally and disseminate the right information rapidly."

The redesigned site is slated to be completed this fall, Overcash said, and will be rolled out in phases due to the complexity and scope of the project.

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