Changing the site nav: it’s not (for) us, it’s (for) you

So, what did we learn from our navigation study? That even after more than a decade of trying to organize NASA’s website along lines that make sense to you, the public, we still do some things that make more sense to us. In trying to create a minimum of top-level nav categories, we grouped some things together in ways that confuse you.

All of this has given us good input for this second round of tests. Colleen Kaiser, our user experience engineer, has created two versions of a new test. You’re welcome to try  either or both. I won’t tip off the revisions we’ve made – go and see for yourself. Thanks again for helping us.

NASA Nav Test 2, Version A

NASA Nav Test 2, Version B

Help Test Navigation for the New

It doesn’t sound like much fun: take everything you’ve been doing at work and figure out an entirely new way of doing it. But it’s a fact of life on the Internet: technology changes so rapidly, driving equally rapid changes in how people use it, that as soon as you’ve brought everything up to date you start falling behind again. At, we enjoy that challenge. image map 1994
From 1994 through 1997, the NASA Home Page featured this image map as the primary navigation tool.

Which brings us to today’s topic: a new design for (the fourth major overhaul since I started managing the site in 1995) and how you can help us realize it. Since we last reworked the site in 2007, the digital world has changed radically. Social media effectively takes content off of websites and puts it wherever people are, quite often on mobile devices rather than computers. We need to adapt and update how we manage and present the site.

The new design will have five goals:

  • Address users’ pain points with current design
  • Modernize the look and feel
  • Be adaptive, so users on mobile devices have as good an experience as users on desktops or laptops.
  • Structure content so that other people and sites can reuse it.
  • Differentiate between dynamic content, like news and multimedia meant for the broad public, and more static content intended for smaller, more specialized audiences.

Each of these goals is worth a short blog post, which will come out in the next few weeks. For the time being, it’s back to first principles.  Before we do any design work, we need to establish the site’s organization. According to our customer-satisfaction data, the basic structure still works, but we’re going to have to present it a little differently to achieve our goals.

That’s where you come in. Through an online service called Treejack, we’ve set up a mock navigation structure and a set of tasks for you to try to accomplish using it. You point and click to tell us which navigation elements you’d use for each task. Based on what you do, we can see if we need to move things around or relabel categories to try to help you find things. There are no right or wrong answers; we’re testing the navigation, not you.

If you’d like to help, visit the NASA navigation exercise. It shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes, and you will not be asked to provide any personal information. Thanks for taking the time to make this site better.