In 2004, Apple was still three years away from selling its first iPhone. That was also the year the National Toxicology Program (NTP) last overhauled the design of its web site. Until now.
Since March, Beth Bowden, an information technology specialist in the NTP Program Operations Branch, has overseen the work of the Signature Consulting Group, a contractor, to build a versatile, user-friendly new site.
“We wanted people to be able to easily find what they are interested in, such as study data, publications, and reports,” Bowden said.
“The new NTP web site design is much more current and visually appealing,” said Cheryl Thompson, web manager in the NIEHS Office of the Communications and Public Liaison. “Hopefully, it will engage both scientists and citizens.”
There are loads of new tools, including a feature known as progressive disclosure. By displaying less clutter, it allows users to focus on the main content of a page. Users can dig more deeply into the site’s information without getting lost.
“Progressive disclosure is key to providing content tailored to different audiences,” said Bowden. “People especially like that the site is usable on their smart phones.”
Updating the site to be compatible with mobile technologies, which are favored by younger audiences, was a major goal. “We worked hard to provide responsive tables that look as good on mobile devices as on larger screens, without losing information,” Bowden said.
Suzanne Fitzpatrick, Ph.D., a health policy analyst who represents the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on the NTP Executive Committee, calls the new site a big improvement over its predecessor, with an appeal to scientists and the public alike.
“For example, it is now very easy for the public to know how to nominate chemicals for consideration by the NTP,” said Fitzpatrick. “It’s one of the nicest government websites I have ever seen.”
The NTP Information Technology Advisory Committee (ITRAC), which includes members of the NIEHS Division of the NTP (DNTP) provided guidance and direction for each step in the redesign process.
“An effective and easily navigable website is an integral part of communicating effectively to the public and stakeholders,” said Nigel Walker, Ph.D. He is the DNTP deputy division director for research and a member of ITRAC. “The ITRAC team worked closely with Signature to bring it in line with current best practices.”
Content easier to understand
In addition to easier navigation and a more appealing look, content has been restructured to be more understandable. Headers and footers have been redesigned to better tell NTP’s story.
“This is just the first phase,” said Walker. “We are now reviewing and revising the content to make it more accessible to a wider audience.”
Shawn Jeter, a technical information specialist who worked with Bowden, pointed out that the new design will help nonscientists learn more about the NTP mission. “More people are paying attention to their environment,” she said. “So we wanted to do our part to get them the information they need.”
The website includes some 11,000 pages, with information about meetings, articles, abstracts, and major NTP projects like the Report on Carcinogens and related testing.
(John Yewell is a contract writer for the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)