A few days ago, our website underwent a substantial behind-the-scenes overhaul (learn more on the AOTUS blog). While most of the changes we made are “under the hood,” there are a few visible enhancements we’d like to highlight for you. Today’s post is the first in a series that will share some of the details of these changes. We look forward to your feedback about these improvements!
Why mobile matters
More than a third of visitors to NARA’s websites access our information via a mobile device. For us, that’s more than 8 million people a year using our sites on a tablet or smartphone. (You can find more fascinating statistics about mobile use of government websites on the DigitalGov blog.) The number of mobile users to our site increases every year, making mobile access to our holdings and information a significant priority. It is more important than ever that our holdings and content are available anytime, anywhere, and on any device.
The most recent changes we made to Archives.gov focused on the underlying infrastructure of the site and not on the front-end design. (Note: We are planning to kick off work on a full redesign next year.) However, as we worked to migrate the site into the Drupal content management system, we took the opportunity to re-code the page templates using a technique called responsive web design.
In essence, responsive design automatically scales down the display of a website for smaller screen sizes. The layout of pages changes based on your device. You might notice, for example, that only a single column is displayed on a smartphone, whereas three columns of content appear on a larger desktop screen. This technique allows us to make the most of the limited real estate on smaller devices. The navigation, for example, moves from an “always on” display to a “hamburger menu” in the top right. Navigation items are therefore hidden until you need them, making more efficient use of space on smaller screens.
America’s Founding Documents go mobile
It’s hard to overstate the importance of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. On our old site, these founding documents were displayed in a completely different web design which did not render well on mobile devices. As these are some of the most visited pages of our website, we decided to implement responsive design and bring these pages into the fold to match the rest of Archives.gov. You can now easily access these critical documents from every page of our website because we also added “America’s Founding Documents” to the main navigation.
We hope you’ll agree that the changes we’ve made improve the user experience on smaller screens. By implementing responsive design on Archives.gov, we are able to make web-based content accessible to the broadest possible set of audiences and devices. Please check out Archives.gov on your smartphone or tablet and let us know what you think.
In the next post, we’ll look at our new calendar of events.