There are gender wars, and then there are casualties. It wasn’t until 2011 that the behemoth toymaker LEGO acknowledged girls’ desire to build with bricks, even though the company had long before made a seemingly effortless pivot to co-branding, video games, and major motion pictures. So it’s little wonder that girls face all-too-real obstacles when […]Read more
NASA redesigned their web site, with a magnificent failure of design by committee. It is a failure of content (eliminated the most interesting details about the science and engineering), a failure of organization (poorly consolidated types of content, such as multimedia and interactive features), and failure of implementation (site does not resize for small-screen smart phones, and failed to make popup menus work correctly on tablets).
Here’s the new home page:
The link “For students” doesn’t go to a page with information for young minds who dream of space and exploration — rather, it links to a promo of a high-level NASA bureaucrat Leland Melvin receiving an award. Meanwhile, they eliminated the kinds of dreamy topics (space station, solar system, beyond earth) which were directly linked from the old home page.
Leland looks interesting, and it’s good that NASA is featuring smart black professionals on their site, but this particular story about Leland is hardly going to excite a 13 year old kid on summer break who happens to surf the NASA site.
Another important failure is the false differentiation of types of content based on specifications of the department which produces them. At the same time that leading web sites like Facebook and Twitter, as well as major news outlets, are blurring the lines between text, photos, short and long videos, and audio content, NASA is taking a step backward under the delusion that the public thinks “images,” “multimedia,” and “sciencecasts” are different things, or cares:
Meanwhile, lead screen real estate is given to “events”, which links to a calendar filled with empty months, and uninformative events metadata. These are not even real events, like Google+ hangouts with top scientists and former astronauts: They are merely anniversaries, such as the anniversary of the Mars Rover launch of 2003.
All in all, the new NASA site is a hugely missed opportunity to inspire and inform the public, as well as serve the multitude of stakeholders. It was obviously designed from a hugely introverted view of internal departments and procedures. It also may reflect the poor use of surveys to plan a site redesign. For example, survey respondents might say they want “images” and “multimedia” on the new site, but that does not mean the site should be designed using those particular navigational labels.
They make a nice attempt, but incomplete, to substantially integrate with various social media channels. The problem is that social media should be more pervasively integrated, and not put in silos which are linked away. Blogs are arbitrarily differentiated from news releases. Audio podcasts are arbitrarily differentiated from other multimedia. And mobile is still an afterthought in the underfunded, underdeveloped, NASA slideshow apps.