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If you haven’t seen it already, check out our new video page at We feel like it’s a pretty big step forward, but as always, we want to hear what our users think. Video page

We’ve heard you loud and clear over the years — in  mail, tweets, and other communications everyday from every corner of the globe. And one of the most frequent complaints has been the way we presented videos.  The biggest challenge has always been how to deal with multiple formats produced by various video teams at NASA Centers all across the country. 

Just a few years ago, we simply opened videos using the “native player” — a .mov opened with QuickTime, a .rm with RealPlayer, a .wmv with Windows. There was no context; videos were presented one at a time and not grouped with other videos.

A few years later, we developed a standard video player that at least grouped our videos together and automatically detected a users settings, but still required various browser plug ins to see all the videos. We still weren’t quite there.

So we pulled together a working group made up of some of the agency’s web editors, technicians, and video professionals to gather requirements. It was pretty clear from their work and from your comments that we needed a single format for all videos. So we evaluated several commercial off the shelf technical solutions, made a selection, and began the transition to Flash-based video.

Now, visitors to can finally view our videos without the need to install multiple plugins — all you need is a Flash player. The videos are displayed in several ways, from recent uploads to topics such as “Solar System” or “Earth.” Users can search for a video without leaving the video page, or browse by most popular and top rated. In addition to rating, viewers can also comment on videos, download them to their local computer, share with a friend via e-mail and social networks, or copy the embed code to post in their own blog.

Many of these features will be familiar to you if you look at any video sites on the Web today. While video may seem like an easy thing to fix in the age of YouTube and other video sharing sites, it can get pretty tricky for a large organization like ours. We certainly wish we’d gotten here sooner, but we’re glad to be here now. 

As always, we’ve still got a few things on the drawing board, and we’d love to have your feedback.

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, 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?

Tuning Into Better Improvements

As promised in the last post, yesterday we rolled out a new NASA Television schedule page. This page shows NASA’s three television channels listed much like you’d see listings in your local newspaper with blocks of time indicating which program is on which channel. We hope this small improvement makes the online program schedule easier to read.

NASA TV Schedule Screenshot

This change also combines program information into one place instead of the old model of three different schedules depending upon whether something was regularly scheduled, a live event, or a mission event. Now the schedules for all three channels are listed on one page. Additionally, when a user hovers their mouse over the program title, they see a small window open that has either a description of the program or a link for more information. This was added in response to user feedback that more information was sometimes necessary, especially on cryptically named television programs.

Listings of upcoming programs, events and features on NASA TV’s Public, Education and Media channels now can be accessed easily in the NASA TV section.

Stay tuned for more changes coming soon to

New Social Media Integration Features

A big hello from the Web Team at NASA Headquarters. We’re starting this blog to keep you informed about what’s going on ‘Behind the Page.’ We hope to update this on a weekly basis or more frequently as needed. It’ll be the place where we talk about new features in the works, respond to your e-mails and issues, and highlight intriguing things from across the web site. Without any further ado, let’s jump right into the deep end.  

Screenshot of new Connect menuSome of you have e-mailed us, tweeted us, and inquired over the past few months suggesting that we integrate our social media into the home page more and your wishes are being answered. We’ve been collecting all of NASA’s vast social media presences on a page that’s linked in the top navigation bar under the button “Collaborate.” While that page has several good resources, we’ve found that some folks keep missing the links to NASA’s Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.

As a result of this confusion, we’ve surveyed other leading Web sites online. Looking at these sites, we decided that maybe we weren’t calling it what you all were expecting to see. We’re re-labeling that button into ‘Connect’ instead of ‘Collaborate’ as that has become more of a standard label for an organization’s social media section. To also help you locate the main NASA social media accounts, we’ve added them to a new drop-down menu that displays when you hover your mouse over the new ‘Connect’ button in the top navigation bar. As always, if you click on the Connect button or the new ‘More Social Media…’ link in the bottom of the drop-down menu, you can reach the main NASA social media page that has all of our links on it. Hopefully, this change will make our top navigation more user-friendly to everyone looking to connect with NASA on social media.

Screenshot of the New Twitter Updates boxAnother exciting change that’s been in the works for a while is also being unveiled at the same time. In the right column of the home page we’re replacing our current “Get NASA Updates” module with two new modules. The first presents updates from the @NASA Twitter feed in near-real time ; the second, smaller box allows you to sign-up for NASA updates by e-mail. We hope that displaying the Twitter feed on the home page will show a broader cross-section of material across, including material that won’t fit into our featured spaces on the home page. Additionally, we’re hoping the smaller e-mail subscription box has a better look-and-feel to fit in with everything else going on with the (admittedly, pretty busy) home page.

These changes are just the first of a series of tweaks that are coming on as we look at how to streamline our online presence to make it more user-friendly. We know that we have a very dedicated following of folks from every corner of cyberspace. This blog and your comments will hopefully allow us to share insight into what’s in the works here at NASA and also be a forum for us to hear about what you’d like us to work on next. No promises are being made, but we’ll always have an open ear.

As always, you can e-mail the Web Team at or drop us a line in the comments. We’ll try to respond as time allows, but know that we read every comment and e-mail that comes through the door.