The new Enhanced search, mobile applications, easier to use

Federal Web portal has been redesigned with citizens in mind

On the eve of Independence Day weekend, the Obama administration relaunched the Web site with a new design, new search engine and a storefront of 18 free mobile applications to access federal data.

The new aims to be more intuitive, more accessible and more useful to visitors, with many features to boost usability and interactivity, officials said. The home page features a rotating series of links for activities such as applying for a passport, finding a government job, or buying a National Park pass.

“You will see a tremendously different Web site designed for citizens, not for the government,” David McClure, associate administrator of the General Services Administration’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technnologies, said in a conference call with reporters July 1. “For its look, feel, navigation and simplicity, this is a winner,” McClure added.

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The site redesign cost about $280,000 without the cost of the mobile applications development, McClure said. The site inherited the Microsoft Bing search engine because the redesign contractor had a standing subcontract with Microsoft. However, the former Bing search engine was re-engineered with new algorithms to be more useful for visitors, McClure said.

The new search engine is “nine to 10 times faster” and more capable at finding relevant information, he said.

The site makes available 18 mobile applications designed for smart phones such as iPhones or those running the  Android operating system.

It has a Food Recall application that allows users to scan a bar code for a food, drug, automobile or other product to get immediate information on if that product has been recalled. It pulls information from the Agriculture Department, the Food and Drug Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Highway Traffic Safety administration.

Other mobile applications include a locator for alternative fuel stations, a link to the White House Web site, and a Body Mass Index calculator. The 18 applications were selected based on their availability and success in testing, and the degree of interest they are likely to generate, McClure said.

Approximately another 100 mobile applications are in development by federal agencies and are expected to be available soon, he added.

The Obama Administration has been creating new sites and redesigning existing sites.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.


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