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The ICANN Site - A Lot Done; a Lot More to Do

2 October 2014
By Chris Gift

It's been nearly one year since we launched the bare bones of the new ICANN website. Six months later, we migrated our content to the site and fully launched it. These milestones, and the impending ICANN51 meeting, provides us with an opportunity to reflect on how far we've come with this project, share the many things that still need doing and answer your questions about the site's progress.

Why did we make changes to the site?

We remain a multistakeholder, bottom-up organization. In digital terms, this means we are working towards creating a site that explains the role and work of ICANN better, gives clarity to newcomers, provides greater accountability and transparency to the community and helps the community do its work. Additionally, we expect an increasing dependence, over time, on web services to deliver more of ICANN's functions.

What's changed with the site?

At a granular level, we've tried to respond to the needs of the community with a function or content solution that fits. Here's a sample of how we've dealt with some of those:

  • Newcomers told us that they didn't understand ICANN or how to engage with the organization, so we added the Getting Started section.
  • Those same Newcomers found it difficult to understand how policy was created. We upgraded the Policy section and moved it in the top navigation bar.
  • Too few people understood the public comment process or where any one document stood in that process. We simplified the content design, added a status bar and elevated it to the top navigation.
  • The identity of participants in ICANN's processes seemed to be of interest to everyone. So as part of our commitment to accountability and transparency, we created the ICANN Profile and invited people to register. Today, we have 4,865 profiles, growing at around 15% per month.
  • Many people believe we have a lot of websites. We began a long-term project of bringing other sites back into the fold of the primary site, beginning with myICANN functionality.

What are some areas that need significant improvement?

  • Search: We implemented a solution for search that simply didn't work well enough. We were slow to recognize its failings and slow to rip it out. We'll be trying that one again.
  • Documents, the metadata attached and our reliance on PDFs instead of HTML versions. With the resource issues we have, relying on PDFs is often easier in the short-term but has all sorts of issues with accessibility, versioning and site search. It needs work.
  • The information architecture of the resources section is flawed. It is difficult to navigate and difficult to understand your place in the site. It needs a lot of work.
  • Translations. We don't offer a significant enough translated presence yet. Here, we are aiming to build-off the Language Services Focus Group, which is in the process of completing its recommendations.
  • The SO and AC sites remain separate entities, with a resulting jarring shift in content and architectures on the users' journey. While there are important reasons for this separation, there is a community need to find ways to reduce the navigation confusion between the entities.

When will these changes be complete?

Our site will constantly be evolving. We will always be looking for ways to improve and change the way we deliver information and functions. Throughout this, we will inevitably retrace some steps and fix bugs and issues. We'll also change the way we do things as users change their own digital habits. We've anticipated that those habits will increasingly mean users access the site on a mobile device, so the site needs to render well and function on smartphones.

How will the site better serve its audiences?

While we won't change our user-led approach, we will adjust our sights toward the audiences we're focused on reaching and engaging. In the initial re-launch phase of ICANN.org, we focused on newcomers to ICANN to increase awareness of ICANN's role and work. In the forthcoming phases, we'll look more towards the existing audience and how we better serve their needs.

What's next?

There's plenty of work still to do. We have a roadmap to tackle each task, while at the same time, negotiating issues of priorities and resources. On an ongoing basis, we'll share the plans and the work through this blog and we'll discuss our progress through ICANN webinars, seminars and meetings. We want and need your feedback, so we encourage you to join these conversations. Our website is the primary vehicle of engagement for the community and we are focused on improving it for the benefit of all of our users.


Chris Gift

Chris Gift