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Streamlined Design and New Features for

Posted by Peter Rhee, Digital Media Director and Bernetta Reese, Web Project Manager in Technology
Jul 24, 2013

Over the past two years, USDA has undergone a major redesign of and most Agency and Office websites.  While we’ve taken major steps to improve the user experience and usability through a streamlined and modern look and feel, we continue to learn and expand on these improvements as we progress through our redesign processes.

As part of this redesign, we focused on further optimizing the homepage for ease of use and to maximize resource exposure for users based on Federal best practices and lessons learned from prior USDA Agency website redesigns. Web and social media analytics also provided key insights to popular content and user preferences, which we continuously evaluate to make adjustments to our digital content.

Enhancements to include:

  • Repositioning the homepage photo carousel on the left to optimize content flow and organization
  • Placing social media icon links on the top right to maintain consistent navigation across subpages
  • A new TV and Radio Hub feature on the homepage to highlight USDA’s YouTube and Weekly Radio activities
  • Expanding our Popular Topics section across two columns for quick and direct access from the homepage
  • Two additional graphic badges on the homepage to highlight special programs and initiatives
  • Modifications to the overall look and feel to provide a cleaner, less cluttered appearance

Through these enhancements, further extends the OneUSDA vision by incorporating the USDA branding guidelines to our website. We will also work with USDA Agency and Offices to modify their websites to consistently align with these visual standards in the coming weeks.

Following the release of the Digital Government Strategy by the White House in May 2012 -- USDA’s Office of Communications, Web Communications Division launched a digital content review of the website to revitalize and strengthen its web presence aiming to improve service to the public with high-quality digital government content.

Between 2004 and 2012, USDA published approximately 6,388 web pages, including over 4,000 newsroom pages. Since the launch of the web audit in December 2012, more than 2,000 topic related pages were reviewed and assessed by the web team. Of those pages – over 1,400 were identified as outdated or obsolete and removed from the website, reducing total site content by approximately 25% and topical content by more than 70%.

Improvements were also made to hundreds of pages which included accessibility and usability enhancements and a metrics assessment of all content on the site was conducted. New web measures and best practices have now been implemented to further optimize content and ensure federal guidelines and strategic plans are fully implemented across the site.

In addition, we launched USASearch on the site in January 2013.  USASearch is a free search engine tool based on open source technology and is provided by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). Since launch we've provided users with a better search experience and enhancements such as:

  • Social media integration in search results with Flickr, Twitter, and YouTube.
  • Best bets displayed above results with self-selected site content to match search terms.
  • RSS feeds included and highlighted in results.
  • Type-ahead search suggestions based on commonly used terms.
  • Fast and relevant search results returned in less than 400 milliseconds.
  • Increased site engagement by bringing together and making multiple web channels, images, and video accessible within search results

With the USASearch tool, we are able to deliver a modernized and customer-centric search experience on The service has provided significant improvements to our site search technology and the ability to leverage open source technology and seamlessly integrate with other existing platforms and USDA social and multi-media channels across the web.

We are able to fully manage the tool and reduce the amount of resources needed to maintain an enterprise-wide search solution across the Department. Our employees and customers expressed immediate satisfaction. We now have the ability to work with our agencies to further the enhancements provided by this technology and to build upon our total web presence.

Category/Topic: Technology