ICANN Provides Sneak Peek of New Website

MARINA DEL REY, Calif.—The website for perhaps the most important organization in the world with respect to the internet—namely, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers)—has, frankly, always been a mess—a veritable jumble of poorly organized information seemingly designed to prevent any sort of transparency with regard to the inner workings of the Southern California-based organization.

But all that is supposed to change with the launch of a newly designed and structured site that actually is supposed to meet the needs of the internet’s stakeholders, which now includes most of the countries and peoples of the world.

Following the last ICANN meeting in Sydney, a working group was established to look into improving the website and a survey was undertaken to solicit suggestions from the community at large. As the next meeting in Seoul prepares to get under way this coming Monday, ICANN is providing a sneak peek at the new website.

Kieren McCarthy, ICANN’s general manager of public participation, posted some screen grabs to the ICANN blog Tuesday, showing what looks to be a clean and more colorful site than the current iteration.

“Since June,” McCarthy writes, “ICANN staff has been working hard with external consultants Revere Group to redesign the website to fit with the community’s needs. Revere first carried out a site audit, pointing out all the areas where the website didn’t fit in with best practices and guidelines.

“Then it carried out the online survey as well as around 15 in-depth interviews with community members and staff to find out what it was that people felt the website needed to do. And it also went through the full logs of website visitors to find out who was coming to the site and from where, and from that created a research document summarizing the findings.

“Based on these two documents, a new taxonomy of the site was developed in iterations. New categories and menus cover all the different aspects of ICANN as an organization and structure them more simply and logically. And from that, wireframes—blueprint designs—for new webpages were drawn up and new functions and approaches were discussed in an effort to make the site as easy to use as possible.

“Once the wireframes were in place, the study then moved into a design phase where a wide range of different approaches to the actual site look were drawn up and run through a group of around 10 staff over the course of a month, and the designs were gradually honed down to the point where the blueprints for the different pages were created as images.”

The remaining work to be done—“figuring out how to implement the new approach, ensuring that we keep as much of the design and new functions sketched out earlier in the process”—is expected to take another six months. Though McCarthy is being careful not to promise a new site by an actual date, he concludes “it is probably safe to say that before the next meeting in Nairobi in March 2010, there will be an updated and fit-for-purpose website that should finally put an end to most, if not all, of the usability issues that the community has had to deal with on ICANN.org for the past few years.”

Needless to say, an ICANN whose website is truly functional and provides an actual manifestation of functioning transparency would be a very significant achievement for a body that recently attained a greater measure of independence from the U.S. government.

The old website can still be found here.