Crowdsourcing the next NASA.gov

Agency is pushing for public input as it plans its website redesign.

NASA Logo

NASA is in the process of redesigning its website, and is seeking public input in the early planning stages.

The agency is using Ideascale, a forum where users can submit ideas covering a range of topics, such as design and content, for NASA staff to factor into the new NASA.gov. This new effort, launched Nov. 19, builds on the feedback long gathered via more traditional tools like email-the-webmaster forms and customer satisfaction surveys. Such tools “tell us how people feel about the site, we’ve put a lot of what we learned into usability testing over the years,” said Brian Dunbar, NASA’s Internet services manager and the content manager for NASA.gov. “[Ideascale] is just one more tool as a way to gauge the interest of people, and lets people not only just submit ideas but comment on other peoples’ ideas, vote them up or down, so we can start to get a feel for how widespread interest in a particular topic is.”

Ideascale users are made up of a largely self-selected audience, so while that is taken into account, NASA (and visitors to the site) can still see which ideas reign supreme. The top-rated idea suggests that NASA provide the public with more raw data, and the second most agreed-upon idea is to set up a live feed from the International Space Station. “That gives us a feel that helps us in terms of what’s gaining traction with folks,” said Dunbar.

This is not the first time NASA has used Ideascale. In the spring of this year, NASA used it for the program planning group to collect questions about Mars and Mars exploration. They were also able to get a feel for what people were interested in and how that might play into the Mars exploration program. Ideascale provided NASA with good feedback that can be used in long-term planning. FEMA, the White House and other agencies have used the tool as well. In addition to content and web design, NASA hopes to get feedback on their social media efforts as a way to improve their already-strong presence on Facebook and Twitter.

“The digital universe has changed significantly since we overhauled www.NASA.gov in 2007,” David Weaver, NASA’s associate administrator for the Office of Communications, said when announcing the redesign process. “Our focus now is to better integrate our web and social media efforts, while continuing to improve the site’s overall look and feel and navigation capabilities. We welcome the public’s input on how best to do this.”

As of Nov. 28, the forum had 270 ideas posted, 348 comments and over 8,000 up-or-down votes from 1,238 users. NASA’s web services contract is in transition, Dunbar said, and the public can expect to see website changes sometime in the spring.

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