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Redesigning USDA Online

You may have noticed a fresh, new look on USDA.gov last night – we’re excited to announce the launch of our redesigned website!  Our redesign team has been hard at work designing a new look and feel that should make navigating our site more user-friendly and intuitive.  In support of our One USDA approach, we strive to provide a consistent, high value online experience that focuses on our users’ top tasks and requests.  One USDA unifies our mission areas and offices to provide all of our stakeholders with a cutting-edge experience that empowers education, decision-making and action.

Not only did One USDA inspire the design of our new website, it also describes the collaborative redesign process.  Using only in-house expertise and resources, the collaborative effort was led by our Web Communications Division and agency web professionals who contributed to the information architecture and design elements, a significant cost savings for the Department.

In an effort to deliver the information you need most, we’ve cleaned up the design and offer the USDA Blog, Newsroom and Agency Reports right on the homepage. If you’re interested in a particular topic, hover over the Topics list and select from the key issue areas. Many folks visit USDA in search of Programs and Services so we added this section to the top navigation that will stay with you throughout the site. Think of Programs and Services as transactional or support relations with the Department.

Our creative broadcast, photo and new media teams produce rich content that illustrate the wide scope of activities and programs from across the Department. The Stay Connected bar delivers you the best photos, videos, blogs and links to our social networks at the click of your mouse. Be sure to sign-up for e-mail updates when new content is available on these channels. We rolled out a new e-mail subscription service a couple of weeks ago so you can receive updates on the latest information from our newsroom, social media sites, radio production as well as specific topics of interest. If you haven’t already, sign up for updates and always be in the know!

There’s still more work to be done.  Now that the site has a new look with many navigation improvements, we will start the second phase of really digging in to the content of the site to make sure the most relevant and current information is available. Be on the look out for more exciting improvements to come!

We hope you like it and find getting around USDA.gov easier and more enjoyable, and please – let us know what you think.

USDA Screenshot

29 Responses to “Redesigning USDA Online”

  1. Donna Smith says:

    It looks great! I immediately noticed and I immediately noticed how much easier it was to get around. Thank you!

  2. Matt says:

    Great job on the new site! Looks great and much more intuitive.

  3. David Galyean says:

    Dear USDA,

    What pester me the MOST is that I would like to see USDA talking about disability program on your website that has good services/support toward us, disability farmers including deaf, and hard of hearing.

    I happen to be blind in one left eye, being profoundly deaf as well.

    At times, I’ve heard from hearing people telling me….”We have wonderful low interest (social disadvantage) farming mortgage program for you. Here’s the guidance, outlines, etc…blah blah….

    That’s wonderful :) UNFOURNATELY It doesn’t work that way esecpially among various type of disability, deaf and hard of hearing citizen simply because we are widely relied on social security pension system with federal government (In which is cruely LOWER) than national’s average cost of living, national’s business market, etc…

    We, as a whole tend to have an average income of $800 a month. The farm property, building structures, equimpment, etc tend to be asset-worth at least HALF MILLION DOLLARS!!!! Cruely HIGH over the sky limit!

    So how is it VIRTUALLY POSSIBLE for us to even capable to adapt, meet your regular mortgage and it’s interests, etc package on our tiny income system???? Can you explain the logical sense to us????

    My resolution making it possible to social disadvantage farmer opportunity is:

    1) Develop, design a voucher purchase program package providing to disabilites individual only with expectation of a proof of disability such as certificate signature from doctor, or from Department of Vocational Rehabiliation and such to avoid fraudlent activities.

    2) Develop, designed a donation program system that way we could get a headstart hence and once we success involving the farming business… Then, We can start paying back toward owners, USDA, etc…

    3) With social security program paying out toward all disabilities citizen in America (nationwide) exceeds TWO TRILLION DOLLARS!!!!! How would it be feasible for you,hearing people willing to support, paying taxes to us??? Logical sense explaination??? C’mon!!!!!!!

    4) My dream/wishlist for USDA to establish a program what I would call “Disability Committee Panel” that way all varietes of disability could become a committee themselves and ourselves help modifying USDA’s existing social disadvantage program to a better updated revised laws, structure, service supports, etc etc….

    I had few USDA employees indicating me that “USDA can’t do anything to accomply my listing what I’ve stated above” because they are federal government system”. You have to go through Congress to approve the endorsements”.

    Ok allright…. Right!!! Scoff!!! because majority of us are on low income pension recipient with social security and can’t afford to travel to Washington D.C. often to lobby ourselves in front of Congressional hearings.

    What’s more is that right now with familiar scence in Washington D.C. the national ecomony are falling apart as they (federal government, congress) appearantly doesn’t have money package to support us much nowdays.

    So….how in heck are we going to fix this situation and problem???? :) Get my drift? :)

    Again, You are always welcome contacting me with any concern, idea, feedback, and suggestions and that I am looking forward to be working closely with you, USDA fellows and teams seeing how best we could resolve those problems much as possible :)

    Sincerely,

    David Galyean

  4. Chris Finley says:

    The new look to the website is great – much cleaner. Also, I particularly like the tag cloud. Nice job!

  5. Bill says:

    While it’s one thing to talk about a refined look and feel that is more user-friendly and presents viable content — you’ve done a nice job with some of that — it’s quite another to talk about the developers’ adhering to contemporary best practices. I think USDA continues to overlook this. For example:

    * Mark-up doesn’t validate (158 errors on ‘home’ page).
    * Both WebAim WAVE & AChecker detect several accessibility errors.
    * Duplicate sections, with the 2nd occurring within the body section.
    * Use of nested layout tables at least 6 levels deep.
    * Poor document structure; particularly in the use of heading levels (e.g., empty heading elements).
    * Inadequate alternatives for images (e.g., “USDA in focus” used for more information on Japan 2011?)

    One might think you could improve in this area.

  6. Amanda Eamich says:

    Hi Bill,

    Thanks for your comments – I’ve passed these on to the team.

    - Amanda Eamich, USDA Web Communications Division

  7. Kevin says:

    When does fsa.usda.gov get an overhaul?

  8. Bill Harshaw says:

    Do you have a logic for linking to agency sites–specifically when I click through to the FSA site it opens in a new tab? I don’t really need a window with links to the FFAS agencies left open.

    When are the subordinate agencies going to change their sites: if I remember the original logic was for all USDA sites to have a similar structure.

    Frankly, I may be in the minority but I find the redesign too busy and confusing. There seem to be a number of different areas: “popular topics”, “information for”, “secretaries priorities”, etc… For example, suppose I want to find information on food stamps–which I believe is the single biggest budget item for USDA. Where do I click–it’s not listed? Now as a retired USDA bureaucrat I can figure out where FNS and SNAP are, but as a taxpayer I think I need more clues.

    I also find the “Blog” tab and the “Latest Blogs” listing confusing–what’s the difference. Do you have one USDA blog and you list the blog posts, or are there really separate USDA blogs?

    Seems to me the Obama administration has imposed some constraints on you all, like showing the ARRA and open government links on the top page, which I don’t see? (Whoops, “Our Open Site” is there, I see now, but that wording doesn’t say “open government” to me.)

    Did you try this website out with some actual users before putting it up? User testing is always good.

    It looks as if you’ve improved your search capability–congratulations, it was overdue.

  9. Amanda Eamich says:

    Kevin and Bill – Regarding other agencies, we will be working with them in the coming months as they update their web design with the new format.

    Bill – As you navigate to interior pages, the upper header navigation will travel with you so that Topics, Programs Services, Blog, etc., will always be accessible. The homepage is a little different so we are able to get folks to the information as quickly as possible, understanding visitors will identify differently and have different goals. You can find SNAP, for example, listed within the Programs and Services menu.

    Thank you for taking the time to share your feedback!

    - Amanda Eamich, USDA Web Communications Division

  10. Warren says:

    Great new look and feel. The site is more user-friendly and welcoming. One thing though, as an employee, it seems that quicker access to in-house/ employee concerns would be a well received addition. Can you add this? Overall though,looks good.

  11. Rebecca [USDA Moderator] says:

    David – USDA has several programs that can be of assistance to rural residents, including farmers, who have disabilities. The USDA Community Facilities program provides funding to communities for equipment, buildings, computers and emergency services that serve those with disabilities. Through our home repair (504) program, USDA provides low cost loans and, in some cases, grants to limited-income rural homeowners who need to make a home handicap-accessible. For more information on any of these programs, contact any USDA Rural Development office.

  12. Dennis says:

    The 10th anniversary of Section 508 is just around the corner in June, and the new USDA design continues to lack a proactive accessibility design. When you consider the White House, OMB and the Department of Justice are making a big push toward accessibility, how come this redesign remains just as inaccessible to the disabled as the old design? Accessibility needs to be integral to any design from the onset, and not just an afterthought.

    If we are to trust our government, and remain true to the spirit of inclusiveness for all Americans, we must consider the disabled as a normal course of business. As government moves more and more to electronic access, that equity of access required by Section 508 becomes more and more imperative.

  13. Kilian says:

    Vast improvement–kudos to your design team!
    (DOC Webmaster)

  14. marilynn shea says:

    Amanda Eamich… Why don’t you reply to David Galyean’s post???….i see that you replied to the “easy” ones…..

  15. marilynn shea says:

    please cancel previous post… i see david was addressed…

  16. Bill says:

    While the new design is a big change, I find it very busy and confusing to use. I see where you were able to accomplish this all in-house with no budget, it is obvious no time was spent on user testing. Actually getting your customers to provide feedback on what works and what they actually expect to see online. I am a very big user of FSA’s website, while I agree that they need to update their site. I sure hope it does not follow this standard. You cannot even think that you should have one cookie cutter design for all agencies. Each agency has a unique customer base and information needs to be presented to them in that manner. Customer first, not flashy glitzy show with no go. BTW I am a 63 year old farmer who uses a PC heavily to do my business and use many websites that provide excellent information as they listen to their customers.

  17. Amanda Eamich says:

    Hi Dennis – We take 508 and Accessibility Standards very seriously. Our work isn’t done and we are aware that we need to address issues on the new site. We’re working with our 508 board to address all of these issues and thank you for your feedback.

    - Amanda Eamich, USDA Web Communications Division

  18. pam says:

    How about making the two blues the same?? it is really obvious and distracting.

  19. Maria cartagena says:

    when I first open the site, my first thought is I am viewing advertisement from Microsoft Explorer.

  20. Jon says:

    Nice work! Very streamlined and appealing. A couple of things after a quick run through. First, social networking seems to be very upfront. Unfortunately, these are not allowed in .gov workstations. Second, in the photo gallery. I have this impression that the Previous Page tab will take me to next photo, which is the case for the Next Page tab. But that is not the case, it is no different from a Back button.

  21. Dave Bell says:

    First of all, Amanda, I thank you for stating Section 508 is serious and protecting people’s civil rights is important but we, as a Department, have historically ignored it. We should make sure everything is compliant BEFORE we publish it, not afterwards and not as an afterthought.

    1) I dont think this is a legal Web page. It does not appear to be fully compliant with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C. 794d), as amended by P.L. 105-220.

    2) On the home page, under Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, you might want to list crop insurance.

    3) On the various USDA mission area pages, you might want to list a short synopsis of each agencys mission.

    Overall I like the Website’s format and I like the idea but I think the USDA should be protecting peoples civil rights and without full Section 508 compliance, we are not protecting them, we are trampling them – even in beta mode.

  22. Mary says:

    The new site looks pretty good. I’m so glad to see you removed the “party” pictures that came up under the “flickr” icon yesterday. As a current USDA IT staff memeber I have a concern on the Social Networking sites listed under “Bookmark and Share”. Why are sites like Hacker News listed? What is the purpose of making all these sites available on USDA’s website? And why are there sites like Facebook on the front page when it is one of the sites resticted by USDA’s policy on Web Content filtering? I don’t get it what is the point?

  23. John lawrence says:

    Elements are nice

    Still too busy, just cause it is a go twits does not mean it has to be so govt website like!
    Why did it take So Long for this change?
    USDA must be more responsive and take a stronger and bolder step into requiring the use of simple English requirements!

  24. Manuel says:

    Overall this is better than the disjointed and confusing previous web site. But I have several questions for the team:
    Did you solicit feedback and comments from the User Base out in the field? That is cardinal rule number one when developing any website. You go to your users for inputs, comments and testing. The USDA should have sought comments and feedback from the actual users in the field, farmers, ranchers, producers, commodity companies, etc. You see they have a very good idea of what they need and find most important, not some IT developer in Washington (I assume) who has not ever been in the shoes of a user in the field.
    Did you do any preliminary usability studies on the site and examine what the users are looking at by using tools like Web trends and such?
    This site is flashy, to the point of distraction and discombobulation. I also use some of the other agencies and the White House site, which is more clean, concise and not so much like an ecommerce web site, which I assume USDA is not really.
    Lately I see a lot of websites utilizing the web 2.0 functionality, and while it may be useful, I feel that on the new web site it is too busy and takes up important space. It needs to be less prominent on the sites, remember many of us are farmers and don’t have the throughput for flashy photos and glitzy technology and we want to see a simple but practical interface that we can easily get information from and not have to dig so deep.
    There are a lot of broken links that seriously erode the professional quality of what could have otherwise been a good start for the new site. This is not only unprofessional but means that you did not collaborate with the content providers on getting the appropriate content checked and properly linked. For example when I click ‘Plant Health’ I get the ARS agency page with a blank page.
    While I may be a more saavy user, others many of us are using Google Chrome, and it does not look clean, the text is kind of washed out. Just my two cents since I assume this is a first draft.

  25. Bill Harshaw says:

    Me again re: SNAP. My experience is members of the public take a long long time to figure out new government jargon. You and I may know SNAP=food stamps, but it’s not user-friendly. If USDA bureaucrats insist on SNAP, at least: “SNAP (food stamps” would help.:-)

  26. Joan Golden says:

    Great job, Amanda and team. I actually went to the page before I saw the GovLoop post saying it is Awesome. It looked so clean and neat to me I thought it was some kind of commercial webpage!! Very professional. Glad to see USDA is still out in front in use of the web and social media to stay in touch with the public.

  27. Clint Koble says:

    Nice job. Overall, it’s still a bit busy but very easy to follow. I liked the Popular sites and the Latest Blogs; they bring the USDA more into the new world of social media. It is an attractive site, but could be somewhat simplified.
    Clint

  28. Dan Mandle says:

    I like that your team followed a unified vision with this redesign project. Sometimes web redesigns happen “just because,” and that can present some problems.

    I am curious as to why the redesign did not account for mobile access. On my device the standard site loads up and I’m sure that will lead to some decreased engagement among mobile users.

  29. Peter Rhee says:

    Dan,

    We’re actively working on many ways to improve the site, and making the site accessible for mobile platforms is high on our list of things to do. Thanks for asking!

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