Monthly Archives: May 2011

Why Do You Have to Type out ‘www’ to Get to our Website?

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Itseems really simple – just three letters. But they seem to annoy some of ourusers, who have let us know: “Why do I have to type www.nasa.gov and not just nasa.gov? Don’t you people even know the basics of running aweb site?”

 

Theanswer goes back to the early 1990s, when the Internet existed – but the WorldWide Web did not. NASA was on the Net very early in its history, and thenasa.gov Domain Name Servers (DNS) – the Internet’s version of a phone book(OK, online directory) – handled bulletin board systems, Gopher and more. Whenthe World Wide Web came along,  www.nasa.gov becamethe agency’s primary home online.

 

Todaythe World Wide Web is still one of the many, many networked services NASAprovides, all based on the nasa.gov domain. But along the way the web became thepublic’s most widely used aspect of the Internet, so much that the “www”became almost implicit. It started to disappear from the URLs of popularwebsites. NASA never made that switch, and our domain servers still do notforward users looking for nasa.gov to www.nasa.gov. (Though many web browsers now do that automatically once you’ve visited asite.)

 

Settingup our infrastructure to do that is technically straightforward: we need to addmore servers to handle a lot of additional traffic on the front end, beforepeople get to content. There are both implementation and ongoing operationalcosts to doing so, and that’s where the decision point is. Is this the best useof NASA’s resources?

 

Weare in the age of zero-sum budgets: when we spend money in one area, we don’tspend it on another. In the last year we’ve been improving our on-demand video capability,optimizing our mobile site and expanding the reach of our live video viaUstream and smartphones. All of those things are increasing the reach of www.nasa.gov, probably more than the DNS fixwould.

 

Still,we’ve got the plans and are evaluating them and the opportunity costs ofimplementing. We’ll keep you apprised.

Rolling Out New Buttons and Improved Streams

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Screengrab of the new buttonsNotice something different on the homepage? In a subtle switch, late yesterday we changed three of the topical buttons on the right side of the homepage to reflect NASA’s new path and new programs. As we said before, websites are organic creatures — growing, shrinking and constantly changing as the organizations they represent are themselves changing. NASA is moving forward on a new path, investing in the commercial space industry for access to low earth orbit, while developing a heavy-lift rocket and crew capsule to carry astronauts beyond Earth’s orbit.

As a result, we added Commercial Space and Beyond Earth buttons to the homepage to reflect this transition of direction for the agency. We removed the Moon & Mars buttons as the content previously there was covered under these two new buttons or the existing Solar System button. We also combined NASA History and People into one button since there was often a lot of overlap between those two topical areas. Over the last two blog posts, we asked for feedback about the icon and label for what became the Beyond Earth button. We really appreciate all the feedback we received. It was truly helpful to hone our concepts down to the finished product.

Following up on another blog post from the end of April, we also have some good news to report. After launching NASA TV streaming to Android-based smartphones, we realized we had a compatibility issue with certain versions of the Android system. This produced a scrambled picture for the affected users and was widely reported in the comments. We worked for a few weeks on a fix and soft-launched a fix for the scrambled picture prior to the current Space Shuttle mission.

While this may not solve our stream compatibility issue for every type of Android-based devices, we have been monitoring the blog comments, our hq-webcomments@nasa.gov e-mail account and feedback on NASA’s Twitter and Facebook. We think at this point the major scrambled picture issue has been resolved. We’ll continue to monitor it and troubleshoot compatibility issues as they arise. We hope it’s working significantly better for everyone out there than it was when we first loft-launch Android streaming of NASA TV. Check it out today by visiting http://mobile.nasa.gov on your Android smartphone and selecting the ‘Watch NASA TV Live’ link at the top of the page.

Continuing to Refine our Future Homepage Buttons

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In our last post, we talked about some of the concepts we’ve been working on for a new button linking to information about NASA’s new programs on the NASA homepage. We’ve reviewed a lot of the initial feedback and have narrowed down the concepts to one from the earlier selection, and a new one based upon feedback left by a few folks. We also have narrowed down the labels to a couple of choices using the same feedback.Check out our refined concepts:

Refined Icon Concepts
Icon Concepts

Refined Label Concepts
Beyond Earth
Human Exploration

What do you think? Did we miss the boat on these narrowed-down choicesor are we still headed in the right direction? Do you prefer one overthe other? Let us know. Leave us a comment on this blog post or e-mail us at hq-webcomments@nasa.gov.We thank you for this valuable feedback. It’s been extremely helpfulfor the web team as we move forward with NASA’s new programs.

We're Looking for Ideas of the Future

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Websites are often organic creatures — growing, shrinking and constantly changing as the organizations they represent are themselves changing. NASA is moving forward on a new path, investing in the commercial space industry for access to low earth orbit, while developing a heavy-lift rocket and crew capsule to carry astronauts beyond Earth’s orbit.

As we transition from some mostly-discontinued programs to new programs, one of the most prominent changes will be the button links at the top right of www.nasa.gov. These buttons are our way of getting users quickly to the latest news and features in our key topic areas.

We’re searching for the best way to represent the agency’s future plans for human space exploration, and we’d like your feedback. Below are four icon concepts, along with several labels. Which do you think captures the spirit of the forthcoming new missions and projects? Are there other options for icons and labels we haven’t thought of? Do you like elements of one but not another?

Icon Concepts

4 Icon Concepts

Label Concepts

Beyond Earth
Exploration
Our Future
Into the Future
Next Steps
Our Future in Space
Human Exploration
To the Future

    Let us know. Leave us a comment here on this blog or e-mail us at hq-webcomments@nasa.gov. Reflecting these sorts of changes online can be challenging. We’re often constrained for physical space in the templates and are usually having to create artwork to represent concepts that are only in the earliest of planning stages. This feedback will be incorporated into our transition plans totransition to create sections on the site for these new programs. 

    And by the way … this is not the forum for a debate on which direction NASA should be taking. Please keep your comments focused on the icons and labels themselves. This way you are helping us to make the site work better for you.

    A Webby three-peat! Thank you!

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    The 2011 Webby Awards are out, and one more time you have named us your favorite government site. The whole NASA.gov web team says thank you. The editors, videographers, multimedia developers and infrastructure managers all do their best to provide you with compelling content that brings you back time and again. This makes three awards in a row for NASA.gov, and four overall. Again, thank you.

    Our colleagues at JPL were honored by the Webby judges, who chose NASA’s Global Climate Change site as the best science site. Another JPL site, Solar System Exploration, was nominated in the government category.

    Over the past year, we’ve been working on both infrastructure and content to try to keep our momentum going. We’ve got multimedia pieces on the 30th anniversary of the first space shuttle launch and the 50th anniversary of the first U.S. space flight. We’ve streamlined our video presentation into one player and created an optimized version of the site for mobile devices. Developers around NASA have been releasing apps for iPhones, iPads and Android devices. (We’re still working on our TV streaming for the latter. The different flavors of Android make it less straightforward than streaming to iOS devices. But we hope to have it running for the next launch.)

    This summer we’ll be covering the end of the shuttle program, as well as transitioning to a new web-services contract and probably some new tools. But after that’s done, it will be time to start thinking about what the next version of NASA.gov looks like. As always, we appreciate your feedback. And thanks for your support over the years.