Going from Cloudy to Clear

There’s a part of the homepage that very few users were looking at. If you went to the homepage, I’d bet that you missed it several times over the last several years. Most of our visitors do. It was a little graphic in the right hand column about two-thirds of the way down the page. And for the last four months or so, it has said “2012” in really big digits in four different places.

And now it’s gone.

We’re talking about the “tag cloud” that appeared under the “What are people interested in?” area in the right hand column of the page. It was that nebulous-looking area on the homepage that showed you the popular search terms from the past day, week, and month in different font sizes depending upon their popularity. And the reality of it was that it was a cool feature to look at in 2007 when we launched the current design of the site, but it wasn’t a very useful tool for our actual audience.

However, the concept of sharing what are people interested in is still very, very useful. You’ll find it on some of the best Web sites out there. On CNN.com, they have “NewsPulse.” On the New York Times web site, they have the “Most Popular” section. And it’s on countless other sites.

So taking some of the standard-bearers’ approaches and putting a NASA twist on them, we reinvented that box to hopefully provide a ton of more useful information. We ended up giving it a multi-layered tab approach with three areas of interest:

  • A “Most Viewed” tab that looks at the top stories, images, videos and interactive features in separate lists.
  • A “Top Rated” tab shows the top user-rated pages on the site for the last week.
  • And an “Editor’s Picks” tab that showcases links selected by the Web site staff based upon popular pages that people often say are hard to find.
Transition of the Tag Cloud to a List of Links

We hope that this provides more useful information to you than the previous ‘tag cloud.’ A more standard list of titles with links should already present a more intuitive interface compared to the different search words of smaller and larger font sizes. Let us know what you think of this. We hope it takes things from ‘cloudy’ to clear and useful.

Does it work better for you? Are there other hard-to-find links that we should work to put into the “Editor’s Pick” tab?

8 thoughts on “Going from Cloudy to Clear”

  1. I actually just discovered that last week. Thought it was really cool. The new design looks like it might be more standard.

  2. Works better for me! Increases functionality.Overall search time is minimized and it also utilize circulation information feedback in a poll mode, for the benefit of the user (especially the new ones too) in a more simple clicking mode.Thank you.

  3. It’s strange, but that is one of the first sections that I looked at. In fact, “2012” was one of the first clicks I made in the tag cloud!

    I think that the cloud gives a simple and quick view of what are people interested in, so maybe it could be added as a another tab in the new approach.

    Anyway, the multi-layered tab approach looks very fine for me.

  4. Like the new look – I’ve never been a fan of tag clouds… The Washington Post has been using them in print & they look even sillier there.

  5. Great idea.
    I also would like a count down clock for important moments during the shuttle missions.
    Especially for children converting the time zones is a problem.

    It’s so easy when not only the times are mentioned, but we also would be able to hear/see for instance: 6 hours from now docking of the Endeavour to the ISS will be completed.

    Just an idea.

    Thanks for the great site!

  6. I think you guys need to also hit up Facebook. I don’t understand why you still don’t have a Facebook fan page(I checked http://www.facebook.com/nasa) if you are using a different name…my bad…although it’s probably necessary to point out that most people will check just the nasa name, so if you are already on facebook, you are probably losing 90% of potential fans.

    I use both FB and twitter to interact with my users for http://www.hcgslimxpress.com and I find that FB is a lot more engaging for both myself and my users.

    you still get virality, since when people “like” one of your updates, others can see it in their stream.

    you don’t have to worry about character limits(there is one, but it’s not 140chars). So instead of “we r on moon bitlydotcom/url” you can actually type out what you are trying to say

    you can add photos to your FB updates to make it a lot more engaging

    you can actually interact with the people in the comments.

    you can add the FB widget to your site, so people can become fans without leaving the site.

    It’s not like it takes a lot of time and you get a whole other avenue to get out your message. Plus it’s a numbers game, twitter = what 30-40mm users? Facebook has 300mm…much more bang for your buck.

    Again if you already have facebook, my bad.

  7. I hadn’t noticed it gone and the replacement didn’t catch my eye until I read this blog (which I think should be promoted more). Perhaps the word NEW in red at the top right-hand corner slanted might do the trick? The replacement is a good feature!

  8. Hey Guys,

    no more blog posts since three months? Pity, we like your blog.


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