SBA opens Phase 1 of Web redesign

SBA home page

The Small Business Administration has completed the first phase in its project to redesign its Web site to make it easier for users to access information.

SBA had one of the first Web sites among government agencies, but since its launch in 1992, the site has been updated only twice. The present redesign effort was begun in November 2002.

Agency officials hope the new changes will eliminate the myriad of weaknesses that usability tests and focus groups found in the previous version of the SBA site.

"Our main focus was to make the Web site more customer-focused," said Diane Gannon, director of productivity enhancement.

The agency's Web site, which contains more than 50,000 documents and receives more than 1.2 million visits weekly, so far has cost $100,000 to update. Personnel within the department completed most of the work. The remainder of the responsibility was outsourced to two companies, one to complete the design, the other to complete the mapping.

Focus groups had revealed that the primary problem with the site was that relevant information was difficult to find and confusing to understand. SBA responded by working to bring buried information to the surface using cosmetic changes.

One major structural change in the Web site is the creation of five dimensions, designed to guide customers from start to finish through the small business process: starting a business; financing a business; managing and growing a business; business opportunities; and disaster assistance.

The most notable addition within the dimensions is the addition of information on managing and staying in business. Previously, available resources ended once the business was created.

"The most critical change," said Ron Miller, senior adviser to the SBA administrator for e-government, "is the emphasis on how the customer wants to view our products and services, as opposed to how we want to present them."

Other changes to the site include revising the wording to remove excessive jargon and confusing SBA terminology, and adding tutorials and training to help customers learn how to do build with the federal government.

"We've only gone surface level," Gannon said. "Phase 2 will be going through a lot of those pages and re-writing.... We know we've got a lot left to do, but this is our start. This is Phase 1 and so far feedback has been positive."

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