Now Appearing on the Website

You’ve seen the designs. You’ve witnessed us asking for feedback on them. Now, we’ve unveiled the new navigation menus on Visit the site to check them out.

Screenshot of the new navigation

These new navigation menus have been several months in the making. They started as stick-figure-like wireframe documents, and then became graphics. We them modified and played with different colors, textures, patterns, styles and other design elements. We settled on the designs we posted to this blog several weeks ago and we solicited and received lots of feedback. Our goal for these new menus was to make readily apparent popular, as well as hard-to-find content. The new menus highlight this content and other information, resulting in fewer clicks to find the links that are the most sought after. This is coupled with the standard sub-categories for each section of the site, featured links or other popular content.

Since you last saw the menus, we have worked to transform the designs into code and then tested those newly coded menus on our staging environment. This process took user feedback into consideration, which resulted in the tweaking of the menus to include changing a few of the labels and refining some of the content showcased by those menus. We then integrated our existing analytics into the menus to automatically populate certain pieces of the menus. Finally, we tested the functionality of the new menus and worked to resolve any conflicts that may have arisen.

At long last, we’re happy to officially roll-out this project.

Now we are moving on to other development projects, including getting embedded videos to play on tablet devices. We’re also working on other projects, and as always, we look forward to receiving your feedback. The tweets to @NASA, the e-mails to and the comments on our blog posts help us improve the site.

Android App — What Happened?

Mea culpa.

We were so eager to get our Android spinoffs app out that we — I — skipped a couple of steps, specifically ensuring Google’s Terms of Service agreement was something NASA could sign up to, and following our own software-release process. We’re working those and hope to have the app back out soon, along with an Android app for watching live NASA TV. Thanks for your patience, and apologies — to the public and to Todd Powell, the developer who spent so much time putting together a great app.

Brian Dunbar

NASA's First Android App

You’ve probably heard all the hype about Tang being invented as a drink for the astronauts. Well, we hate to say this — but that’s not true. But lots of other amazing technologies have been invented by NASA or through NASA-funded research and now we’ve got an App for that.

Screenshot from App showing a Map of Spinoffs  Screenshot from the App showing the timeline

Since our creation in 1958, we’ve sought to solve the many challenges of space, aviation and exploration through innovation, invention and engineering solutions. We’ve met these challenges head-on by the hundreds, if not thousands. And now we’ve created a new way to explore each and every one of NASA’s Spinoffs — or innovations created for our nation’s space program now in use in your everyday lives — called the NASA Spinoff App for Android.

The NASA Spinoff App highlights the direct impact NASA innovations have made on the everyday lives of citizens. Commercialization of NASA technology has contributed to products and services in the fields of health and medicine, transportation, public safety, consumer goods, environmental resources and computer technology.

This is NASA’s first Android app and allows you to explore NASA technologies developed in your own backyard. The App contains a feed of NASA’s latest technology news, a searchable database of NASA-derived innovations, a map of spinoff locations, a historical timeline and a database of NASA’s available licensing opportunities to inspire the spinoffs of the future.

Additional Android, iPhone, iPad and other Apps are in the works. We’ll continue to keep our list of Apps fully up to date.  But in the meantime, explore our newest NASA App and learn about how space technologies are impacting life right here on Earth.

Thank You!

In many ways, last week was an experiment for us. Like most sites, we collect user feedback about our pages, the designs, the content and more. And we have always incorporated user testing into our design process. It’s really an integral part of the process. However, last week was the first time we officially collected feedback via social media.

Traditionally, we have collected feedback on our site, using three methods:

  • User Satisfaction Surveys – Using ForeSee Results, which you may have noticed on any number of sites, we gather feedback about how satisfied you are and benchmark it against other sites, such as Google and Amazon, using the same basic survey. The survey also has questions specific to We review the results monthly and pay especially close attention to individual comments.

Foresee Customer satisfaction Survey

  • Analytics – NASA analyzes web statistics — metrics such as page views, time on site and referrals — to show us what is popular across our site. We use these stats to see what people are most interested in and how they’re finding it, and this helps us make editorial decisions about where and how to highlight content on the site. This also includes items like the ratings for popular content or the number of likes/tweets stories have received, which can help users make informed decisions about their next clicks.

  • User Testing – conducts usability testing on most major changes to the website. This allows’s team to watch how users accomplish certain tasks and use the site in general. Which buttons and links do folks click on to get to this or that? Do they scroll the page missing the item we’d like for them to locate? Analyzing user behavior during these sessions helps us to make our designs smarter and more in-line with user expectations.

User Testing for User Testing for

But last week, our blog post was an experiment at a fourth way: using Twitter and Facebook to drive visitors to the blog post and soliciting their feedback. Thanks to all of you who responded. We’ve had a wide range of comments that will help us refine our designs, and we plan to implement these navigation menus within the coming months. We’ll blog about it again once the changes are live.

Seeking Feedback on a New Approach to Navigation

We’re working on a new approach to our navigation menus and we want to hear what you think of them. The primary goal of the new menu design is to surface popular and hard-to-find contents so they are easier for you to get to.

We’ve been listening to our users through a variety of channels including satisfaction surveys, e-mail and social media to learn what information you’re seeking on Our new menus highlight this information, making it easier for you to get to, along with the standard sub-categories and links to featured and most popular content.

The new menus can be found below. We really want to perfect these before launching them on our site so take a look at them and let us know what you think. And if you know of other Web sites that do navigation even better feel free to share them with us. Thanks in advance for your valuable input!

› View Full Size Images (.png)

News Menu

Missions Menu

Multimedia Menu

Connect Menu

About NASA Menu

› View Full Size Images (.png)


A Season of New Improvements

With Thanksgiving behind us, we at are thankful for our colleagues across the country who work so hard to tell the story of NASA on the web. We’d like to take a few moments to point out some of the new enhancements we’ve all been working on this fall:

  • – We’ve mentioned it in passing before, but we’ve rolled out a new mobile version of the agency’s website, aggregating the latest news, features and images onto your mobile devices. More features are still to come, and we’ll update you with a full post about the mobile site soon. 
    Screenshot of the Mobile site
    (Above: A screenshot of the website)

  • – Our new URL shortener helps us save characters within our tweets, and it also signals you that clicking on a URL will lead you to a NASA-related web page. We’ve worked to integrate this URL shortener (powered by into most of our social media tools and are working to integrate it into our sharing tools as well.
  • Slideshows – We’ve rolled out new slideshows on the homepage and on many sections of These slideshows automatically step through a series of latest news or features, but you can also take control and manually navigate the content. This new design has a larger image and gives us more spots for showcasing material from around the site. We’re rolling out this feature across the site as we update each section.
    Screenshot of the Slideshow
    (Above: A screenshot of a slideshow in the News section of
  • Tweet/Like buttons – We’ve added the “Tweet” and “Like” buttons you may recognize from other news sites to the top of our story pages. These buttons allow you to easily tweet the title of the story and URL to your Twitter account, or “like” the story on your Facebook profile. This tighter integration between those two networks and will make it easier for you to let your friends and followers know what you’ve found interesting on our site. We’re continuing to look at other ways to more closely tie our content with the social media sites you use.

These are some of the larger items we’ve worked on this fall. Thanks to all of you who continue to give us feedback about the site. The tweets to @NASA, the e-mails to and the comments on our blog posts help us improve the site.

We’re thankful for all of you who have taken the time to come to and want you to keep coming back to catch up on the latest news and information about NASA.

Comparing the Interwebs to Social Media

Spent part of this week checking the spread of Monday’s Chandra story across the web, both from and social media. Though the social media channels are increasing in importance, especially in spreading the word on the first day, the web site still takes the preponderance of traffic, particularly the follow up in the days after the event.

Not surprisingly, attention generated by Facebook drops very quickly as the story moves down NASA’s Facebook page. Plays of the video fall off on both the site and our YouTube channel, but traffic remains higher on the site, paralleled by the drop we see on the site.

Notice that the reach of Twitter can increase as days go by, especially as people start retweeting others’ retweets.

The point of social media is not explicitly to generate traffic to the site, but it’s worth noting that a very small but growing fraction of people are coming to the site that way.
Trying to ascertain patterns and identify the strengths of each channel will be a key element as we start formulating ideas for the next version of in the weeks to come. As always, suggestions welcome.

(FB: Facebook; YT: YouTube. Like you didn’t know.)


Chandra FindsYoungest Nearby Black Hole (Nov. 15, 2010)







Chandra main page downloads





Feature story downloads





Shares via Add This





Video on





Video on NASA TV YT




12,286 (2)

Press release on


N / A

N / A

N / A

Press release via Gov Delivery


N / A

N / A

N / A

Press release via listserve


N / A

N / A

N / A

Impressions on FB page





Likes on FB page





Comments on FB





FB likes on




2,000 (4)

Reach of retweets (people)




42,213 (3)

Retweets from




210 (4)

Referrals to from FB





Referrals to from Twitter





Total visits to

1.85 million




Live press conference streams on


N / A

N / A

N / A

Press conference replays on NTV YT




767 (4)


(1) Data not available until Saturday due to the size of logfiles to be processed

(2) Total for Wednesday and Thursday

(3) Includes retweets from other sites, e.g., NationalGeographic

(4) Cumulative for the week Video and More on Your Smartphones

If you’ve visited on an iPhone, Droid or other smartphone lately, you’ve probably noticed a big difference in the site. 

First off, you can now play our videos on your smartphone, iPad or similar device. We’ve put a “sniffer” in place that can sense if your browser or device doesn’t support Flash videos, and then direct you to a version of the page which delivers the videos using HTML 5 (image right).  Videos from the last month or so are already available in this format, and we’re working to convert the hundreds of older videos over the next few weeks. We figured you’d rather have the most recent videos available than wait for all 1000-plus to be converted.

Our next step in the video process is to design a version of the video page specifically formatted for mobile browsing. Even though the videos already play on smartphones, a mobile-formatted page will make it easier for users to find the videos they want. We’re also working on a process for playing videos embedded in feature stories on your smartphone.

The video upgrades build on the recent rollout of, a stripped-down design based on feedback from user testing.  The mobile site showcases the latest news and features, the image of the day, and the agency’s Twitter feed, as well as the ability to share content and search the site.  As with all of our projects, this is a first step — we’re never really “done.”  We’ll continue to listen to your feedback and make changes to the mobile site in the future.

Hokey smokes, Bullwinkle! Beat Google!

If you’ve visited often enough, you’ve been asked to take a survey about the site. It asks you about the content, whether you find the site relevant and other things, including some demographic questions. I’ve you’re one of the people who have answered, thank you. The survey provides one of the key metrics that lets us know how we’re doing. (Here’s an explanation of how the ACSI works, for the technically inclined.)

So how are we doing? Pretty well it seems. Our scores for September and for the third quarter of 2010 were the highest we’ve ever gotten. We continue to outpace web sites generally and most other federal-government sites, and we remain fairly close to some of the most widely used commercial sites. Our September score of 83 wasn’t too far behind Netflix and Amazon, and it was well ahead of some others. (Here’s a chart for comparison.)

And, heck yeah, we were higher than Google last month. I can only recall one other month that we were even; Google is usually the highest rated site of all that use this particular service. Most likely it’s a one-month aberration, and the more interesting question is what caused them to drop so precipitately. But you’ll have to ask them.

The real value of this survey is in comparing our ratings over time. In that respect, we’re doing very well. Over any standard time period (months, quarters, years) our customer-satisfaction rating continues to climb. We’re convinced that’s because we pay attention to what you say, whether it’s via e-mail to us,  indirectly through your click paths across the site or through the survey itself.

We take what learn and use it to improve the site by developing prototypes and taking them to usability testing, then incorporating the testing results into our development. We’ve done three major overhauls of the site (1997, 2003 and 2007) and with each new iteration our scores have climbed. We also continue to make minor changes within the existing design, like deploying our new video player last spring and changes to how we display top news stories last month.

So thank you again for all your feedback. We’ll keep paying attention. Working to Be the Best

Webby StatuetteEvery day, hundreds of thousands visit the NASA web site seeking information about the agency, our missions and programs, and we’ve been getting feedback that they’re liking what they’re seeing. Recently received the highest customer-satisfaction rating of any government web site. also was included in a map of the most far-reaching web sites. And just today we received the statuette representing our third Webby award.

That’s gratifying of course, but what does it mean besides a chance to blow our own horn? Mainly it’s validation that what we do here works for you, the Web public. We take your feedback seriously and rigorously incorporate it into our efforts to improve the site.

To find out what the site’s users think of it, and most importantly if they’re finding what they’re looking for, we get feedback through multiple sources: e-mail to the site, traffic statistics showing what content people are interested in, and a customer-satisfaction survey. We use this information to prototype new features, which we then test with representative users before releasing it. Our goal is to constantly improve our site and make it consistently one of the best on the Internet.

The latest customer-satisfaction data says we’re headed in the right direction. Starting in 2001, we had a rating of 73. More recently we have rated a 79 in 2007, 80 in 2008, and 82 in 2009 and most recently as high as 84. In plain English, NASA’s web site is closer to industry leading websites like (an 86 in 2009) or (also an 86) in customer satisfaction ratings than it is to other web sites both inside the federal government (74) and in the private sector (72).

Icons of the Web showing NASA.govWith continual growth in daily visitors to our site, increasingly high ratings of customer satisfaction, and additional recognition of our efforts to communicate effectively online, we are proud to be ranked among the best websites on the Internet. Earlier this year, Google released what it considers the top 1,000 web sites in the world by website traffic and NASA made the list. And, on Aug. 25, NMap released a poster of favicons, or small icons used by your web browser to represent a website, scaled to size based upon Alexa traffic rankings. NASA again made this ranking and was within the top-third of the rankings of the top 3,000 sites online.

This year’s People’s Choice Webby Award in the Government category was our second in a row and third overall. Earning recognition as a Webby winner is a tremendous accomplishment, one we humbly accept. With nearly 10,000 entries from all 50 states and 60 countries around the world, the 14th Annual Webby awards was the largest competition in the award’s history.

With all of these rankings, ratings and awards, we believe that the public is finding to be an authoritative source for the latest science, technology and mission-related news from the agency. We continually strive to improve and serve our site’s visitors in new and innovative ways. Our teams of web editors, multimedia producers and technical specialists meet at least weekly to discuss ways to enhance NASA’s online experience.

With more than 50 staff located across the country and internationally, we are always on call and always posting the latest news from NASA. We are always listening to feedback, planning for the long term, analyzing what it will take to get the word out and rolling out enhancements to the NASA site.

In the next few weeks, look for a new presentation of news stories on the home page, a revamped version of the mobile site and online streaming of NASA TV in HD. And remember your feedback is always welcome.