From the CEO
An organization's Web site is one of the principal ways it communicates its identity and serves the membership and the public. Over the last few months we have been taking a critical look at our own Web site, and have concluded that the site is in serious need of a major overhaul. Given its importance for the association, a priority for the APA Central Office is the revision and relaunch of the site. This column summarizes where we are in this process.
Good news and bad news
The good news is that apa.org is viewed as a resource, as evidenced by its high traffic level. It is estimated that there are over 85 million Web sites and, according to Alexa.com, apa.org ranks slightly over 22,000 in traffic and is one of the top mental health sites.
Despite the popularity and content of the site, apa.org has some serious problems in three areas: technical infrastructure, internal operations and user experience. The most frequently expressed technical problem with the site is that visitors can't find what they are looking for. Members report not being able to find documents they know are on the site, and searches on topics often pull up only some of the relevant material. Some members often resort to going to Google to help them find what they need within apa.org. One reason for such difficulties is that all of our Web content is not contained just in apa.org. It is contained in over 30 different Web sites created by APA but not searchable through apa.org. These sites often have different platforms, taxonomies for search terms, and programming languages. Some of the technical difficulties with apa.org are related to internal operations. Without centralized and coordinated information technology leadership under a chief information officer, the different programs within APA developed their own approaches to managing their Web presence, leading to fragmented, disconnected and sometimes duplicative efforts. There has been minimal coordination/communication across units about what technologies and approaches were being used.
All of the aforementioned affects the user experience, which is ultimately what the site is all about. A recent survey of 5,000 members found that they visited the site often but had "shallow" visits; that is, they visited few pages while there. The most frequent Web users reported minimal tolerance for a substandard Web presence, and again mentioned the difficulties with navigating the site. Here is a quote from one of the respondents: "Demolish the silos! You have to be an APA insider to know where to find anything from the directorates or offices. And much more information should be cross-linked to a common link. For example, there are about six different locations to find information about one topic." Another problem affecting the user's experience is a lack of a common Web "branding"; many of the 30-plus sites within APA have completely different "looks and feels," different menus for navigation and different approaches to e-commerce, making it unclear if the user is still within APA Web site.
Toward oneness, wholeness and usefulness
What are our aspirations for apa.org? We want a state-of-the-art site that serves our members by facilitating access to a wide range of information on psychology issues, research, and applications; pro-viding tools and resources that enable psychologists in their work; promoting and disseminating products that will be of benefit to members and their clients; and acting as a gateway to member-specific Web services. We also want apa.org to serve the public by dissem-inating credible information about issues/topics in psychology at all levels of public interest, thereby positioning APA as the go-to place for the general public interested in psychology-related topics.
We plan to meet these aspirations through creating more "oneness" and "wholeness" in our technology and operations. For example, we plan to bring all APA Web sites onto a common technology platform; create association-wide standards; create a common look and feel; and develop a universal navigation scheme. We also plan greater personalization and customization of the site, so that, like Amazon.com, it recognizes repeat visitors to better assist them in finding content of interest, and allows visitors to determine if there is new content in areas that they have specified. The site will represent the sum of what APA is and does in a way that creates a positive experience for the user.
Achieving all of the above is a monumental task involving a substantial reallocation of staff time and efforts, and a commitment by our executive staff to fundamentally change the way we do things with our Web site. We plan to roll out the new apa.org in December 2007.