Tag Archives: web 2.0

Thank You!

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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 NASA.gov. 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 – NASA.gov conducts usability testing on most major changes to the website. This allows NASA.gov’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 NASA.gov User Testing for NASA.gov

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.

Web 1.5

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NASA has recently received a lot of kudos for its social media efforts. We had 150 Tweeters, who in turn had about 150,000 followers, attend the Tweetup at the last space shuttle launch. NASA’s Twitter feed, now up to 417,000-plus followers, is one of the most influential on the service. The agency has embraced Facebook, YouTube and other social media services as well. (Though by now everyone should be aware that most of the channels tagged with “NASA” on those sites have nothing to do with the agency.) One of the things the nasa.gov Web team has been figuring out is how the social media efforts relate to the existing Web site, and how we get them to work together.

Fair warning: I’m about give rein to my inner numbers nerd.

The growth in NASA’s social media efforts hasn’t lessened the impact of the website. We’re up to 190,000 web pages on www.nasa.gov. Traffic grew by 18 percent from 2008 to 2009, outpacing the growth of the global online population (14 percent). Google says we’re the 604th most-popular site on the Web. Our customer-satisfaction ratings continue to be among the best on the Web, noticeably higher than most government agencies and not too far behind such popular sites as Google, Amazon and Netflix. And we were honored this year with our third People’s Voice Webby for best government site, for which we thank you.

Comparing metrics offers some insight to the relation between the website and social-media sites, with the weight of numbers tilting heavily toward the website. Compared to the Twitter followers, we had more than 8 million visits to the site in May, with an additional 12 million hits to our RSS feeds. Videos of the STS-132 launch were viewed more than 168,000 times from www.nasa.gov, and about half that many times on official NASA YouTube channels.

The benefit of social media, of course, isn’t the raw numbers of people coming to official sites; it’s in the sharing those people do with others. Non-NASA posts of private STS-132 launch videos were downloaded from YouTube another 50,000 times. (And if you haven’t seen it, check out the launch video shot out the window of a commercial airliner. Warning: contains profanity.) Similarly, at least according to one source, NASA is the 48th-most retweeted Twitter feed. NASA’s Facebook page has 59,000 fans, and though there’s no way to tell how many friends those fans have, it’s not unreasonable to think they could reach several million more.

So how do these tools work together? Social media is terrific for quickly releasing the constant parade of news that NASA has on any given day, from the minor to the extraordinary: Tweet it, share it on Facebook, post it to YouTube and Flickr. But limits on character counts and the types of content that can be posted to each site restrict one’s ability to supply background and context. They’re great at “Hey, this is cool”, but not as much in explaining why the cool thing is also important, or where it came from or where it might lead. That’s why that boring old Web 1.0 site — referred to by one of our bosses as the “brick-and-mortar website” — will always exist and continue to be important. That’s where the big picture is, where all the pieces of the puzzle — text, video images — can be pulled together in one place.

(As a government agency, we’re also concerned about what happens to the content on third-party sites if those sites disappear. Granted, in 2010 it’s hard to imagine YouTube going away. But in 1997 it was equally hard to imagine Netscape and AOL going away.)

At NASA we’re starting to try to merge the efforts. We’ve embedded our Twitter feed on the main page. Our new video player adopts some of the features of YouTube that have become de facto standards. The NASA web community is embracing third-party apps and sites sanctioned by the government. Integrating them all is going to have to become a fundamental part of any communications plan. Like everyone on the Net, we’ll learn as we go. If you’ve got suggestions, you’re welcome to post them here.

— Brian Dunbar