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ICANN.ORG’s New Theme Is Just the First Step

If you’ve visited www.ICANN.ORG today, you might notice that the site looks different than it did last week. We’ve refreshed the look of the pages as the first step in a comprehensive overhaul of ICANN.ORG.

The new look removes some clutter. For example, contrast the way links to social media tools now appear on the site, up in the banner area:

Before:

After:

If the icons are not self-explanatory for any visitor, hovering the mouse cursor over an icon pops up a tool tip with a more explicit label – “Photos,” “Videos,” “Twitter,” and so on. The newer version strikes us as more modern and streamlined.

We’ve also introduced a fresher color palette than the staid blue which, over time, had become something of a corporate cliché on web sites. The clean white background really makes photos pop, putting appropriate emphasis on the people who drive ICANN’s work.

More importantly, this step is merely an interim refresh – new art on top of the existing site structure. Along with contractor Four Kitchens, the ICANN Communications Team is working hard on a complete redesign of the site’s information architecture and user interface. This work stands on the shoulders of the excellent research the Revere Group provided about site visitors through a survey and interviews in 2009. A cross-departmental team of ICANN staff continued in-depth interviews with site visitors in late 2010, reaching out to every Supporting Organization and Advisory Committee at ICANN to ensure their voices are heard as we undertake the redesign of this important communications tool.

All this research identified the requirements that our redesign will drive toward. The forward-looking list of site requirements is lengthy, but some notable ones we’re targeting include much better “findability” of resources and documents on the site, both by navigation and by search. And the redesigned site will offer a robust, fully supported mobile view for those accessing by phone. (This audience, demographers say, is growing so rapidly that by 2015, more individuals will access the Internet by phone than by computer.) ICANN.ORG will also be hosted differently, providing better resilience against unintended downtime and optimized loading time for visitors from around the world.

There is much more to say about this project, so I’ll post an update here from time to time. The conclusion for now is that we think the changes you see on ICANN.ORG are a step in the right direction – merely the first step on an ambitious journey we expect to conclude by the end of this year.

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    Domain Name System
    Internationalized Domain Name ,IDN,"IDNs are domain names that include characters used in the local representation of languages that are not written with the twenty-six letters of the basic Latin alphabet ""a-z"". An IDN can contain Latin letters with diacritical marks, as required by many European languages, or may consist of characters from non-Latin scripts such as Arabic or Chinese. Many languages also use other types of digits than the European ""0-9"". The basic Latin alphabet together with the European-Arabic digits are, for the purpose of domain names, termed ""ASCII characters"" (ASCII = American Standard Code for Information Interchange). These are also included in the broader range of ""Unicode characters"" that provides the basis for IDNs. The ""hostname rule"" requires that all domain names of the type under consideration here are stored in the DNS using only the ASCII characters listed above, with the one further addition of the hyphen ""-"". The Unicode form of an IDN therefore requires special encoding before it is entered into the DNS. The following terminology is used when distinguishing between these forms: A domain name consists of a series of ""labels"" (separated by ""dots""). The ASCII form of an IDN label is termed an ""A-label"". All operations defined in the DNS protocol use A-labels exclusively. The Unicode form, which a user expects to be displayed, is termed a ""U-label"". The difference may be illustrated with the Hindi word for ""test"" — परीका — appearing here as a U-label would (in the Devanagari script). A special form of ""ASCII compatible encoding"" (abbreviated ACE) is applied to this to produce the corresponding A-label: xn--11b5bs1di. A domain name that only includes ASCII letters, digits, and hyphens is termed an ""LDH label"". Although the definitions of A-labels and LDH-labels overlap, a name consisting exclusively of LDH labels, such as""icann.org"" is not an IDN."