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Look at the front page! It’s… slightly different

10 September 2008
By Kieren McCarthy

Front page of ICANN.org

This is a screengrab of the ICANN front page. You’ll notice that it’s slightly different. The changes are explained briefly below, but we’d like to take this opportunity to ask people to think about the future of the website – it’s overall look and it’s overall functioning.

Some of you will have noticed that the front page has been changing in small increments over the past six months or so: we’ve been trying to give the site a little more life, trying to flag up the most important and most recent information and so on.

This time, we have given announcements a little more prominence, as well as moved the bottom box that contained links through to ongoing work to the middle of the page. (And a few other small things.)

A redesign?

But despite our efforts, it remains a consistent complaint that information is hard to find on the ICANN site. (It doesn’t help that over the course of the past two years, ICANN has been producing more and more content every month.) And so we recognize that at some point soon there is going to have to be a complete redesign of the site, with every aspect reviewed and revised.

This blog post is a very small step in that direction in that we are asking you: what do you think we should do? What needs to be changed? What is better? What used to better, and why? What is the information you have difficulty finding? What is the sort of information that is of most importance to you? Would you like to see more video? Or more graphics? A cleaner design? Or a more busy one?

Please use this blog post and its comments function as a way to give us some of your ideas.

But before we get there, just for reflection and interest, here’s a quick rundown of the ICANN site over the years, complete with images.


This is the very first version of the ICANN site dating from January 1999. One link on the front page went through to the “ICANN Startup Fund”, and at the top was an explanation of what ICANN actually was: “… the new non-profit corporation that was formed to take over responsibility for the IP address space allocation…”

Bare yet simple.

As ICANN began to form (November 1999), the site grew more complex with links to announcements and to Supporting Organizations. Correspondence and Minutes appeared, as well as registration to the next ICANN meeting. The beginning of ICANN’s dalliance with bright colours began.


Two years later (October 2001), and the bright blue begins to spread dangerously…


And then, with the world governments’ eyes turned to ICANN in the first stage of the WSIS process, the site saw its second re-design in December 2003. If you wanted to know what it was that ICANN did, you could find just about every aspect of it in one of the boxes on the front page.

ICANN had, of course, continued to produce huge amounts of work, documents, presentations, letters and so on over the past five years, and the site tried to find a way of making it more accessible. To some degree, it worked, and the design stuck.

Dec 03

Nearly three years later (August 2006), and the everything-up-front approach had started to exhaust people. A redesign was called for and announced to the community with a special wiki site set up to gather input. The front page cooled down a little:

Aug 06

And all that was in preparation for the third redesign. The long lists were pulled into tabs running along the top; the migraine blue reappeared but so did calmer grades of other colours. A quick links choice was added, graphics appeared. The site started using CSS sheets and standard web design approaches. Everything seemed a little more organized.


And then the first video appeared, as well as information other than the organization’s announcements.

Nov 07

And then, with the front page opened up, the front page was given a more magazine feel, with more information about what was important and what people were interested in taking up space that has previously been controlled by whatever the latest announcement was.

The announcements were reduced to three, graphics pointing to main sister sites added to the left, and information on the front changed frequently as newsletters, and consultations, and public comment periods and magazines came and went.

Finally we end up where we are today, with five announcements up front, varying front page content and the main work pages of the organization given more prominence.

Sep 08

The question now is: what should the next iteration of the ICANN site look like?

Do we need to:

  • Refocus on SOs and ACs?
  • Or focus more heavily on particular issues?
  • Add more graphics, or more videos?
  • Rethink the colours or the design?
  • Change the tabs and the linking pages?
  • Reduce or increase the space given to announcements?
  • Or, maybe, hire a professional design firm to suggest the answers?

As you know by now, all comments and thoughts welcome.

Mark these words: before you know it, you will grow to actually like the ICANN website.


Kieren McCarthy