Restructuring EPA's Website Memo

MEMORANDUM

Date: April 15, 2010

Subject: Restructuring EPA's Website

From: 
Linda A. Travers /s/, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Environmental Information

Seth Oster /s/, Associate Administrator, Office of Public Affairs

To: Assistant Administrators, General Counsel, Inspector General, Chief Financial Officer, Associate Administrators, Regional Administrators, Deputy Assistant Administrators, Deputy-Regional Administrators, Staff Office Directors

In Administrator Lisa P. Jackson's February 25 memorandum on "Restructuring EPA's Online Presence," she described EPA's Web site as one of our most important communications and public education tools. As the use of the Web for communications continues to grow, Administrator Jackson has directed our offices to strengthen and streamline our Web site.

Our Web site is rich with wide-ranging content. While useful to many people, we frequently overwhelm people with information that isn't central to their tasks. We hope to reorient our Web content as a way to address this concern:

  1. A limited set of microsites. Microsites provide everything EPA knows about a subject, regardless of which office owns the information. Microsites will incorporate social media and multimedia, and feature content written for target audiences.
  2. A much larger set of resource directories. Resource directories link to information without consolidating into a single location. Links will be provided to the most useful information for the relevant audiences, not necessarily every piece of content we own on a subject.
  3. The searchable collection. Microsites and resource directories will feature the most relevant content for identified audiences. The searchable collection contains both those tiers and all other content.

Achieving this structure requires us to address several broad issues, including:

  • organizing information by topic and/or geographical area;
  • prioritizing online investments;
  • radically transforming our search function through new software and metadata;
  • transferring all content to a Web content management system;
  • retaining our capacity to rapidly deploy Web content for emerging issues; and
  • communicating to our customers about these changes.

The key to success will be working together to use epa.gov as a single agency resource, instead of operating as more than 20 separate regional and program offices. We will contact you soon to develop strategies for addressing the issues above.

With your help, our offices have begun restructuring the top levels of the site. We have launched a new EPA home page, and we are building a standardized way of presenting information "About EPA." Over the coming months, we will build several model microsites and resource directories to help us all learn the best processes, staffing, and funding structures.

Because the entire agency will be involved in the site restructuring, we will schedule a phased approach for offices and regions to go through the redesign. During this time, we encourage you to continue producing top-quality content, but avoid the creation of whole new sites or redesigns. (The attachment further clarifies helpful steps you can take to ease the restructuring effort.)

It is incumbent upon your Web Council representatives to communicate with the broader Web content management community in your office and to oversee the cleanup work this year.

The restructuring of EPA's site is a major undertaking with tremendous benefits for the public, and we look forward to working with you.

Please direct your questions, comments, and ideas for implementing the new structure to Jeffrey Levy in OPA (levy.jeffrey@epa.gov) or Jonda Byrd in OEI (byrd.jonda@epa.gov).

Attachment

Web tasks to pursue during the pilot phase of the Web restructuring effort

  • Update your current content and post new content as needed, but avoid creating whole new areas or redesigning existing ones. This will help you avoid investing heavily in a Web project only to have the structure change radically.
  • Ensure all of your PDF files contain appropriate metadata. Contact Susan Fagan (fagan.susan@epa.gov) in OEI for help.
  • Get to know your content well. As we transition to the new structure, you will need to identify primary audiences for each microsite or resource directory and choose content that is most relevant to them. We're not deleting useful content, just choosing the best material to provide and leaving the rest to be searchable.
  • Clean up your redundant, outdated and trivial (ROT) content. The more you clean up existing content, the less expense and time you'll need to move into the new structure.
  • Continue to explore social media. We are still in the experimentation phase with many tools and are eager to hear your ideas and help you try them out. Please keep in touch about your innovations that demonstrate the core open government values of transparency, participation and collaboration.

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