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Monday October 03, 2016

CPSC Website Makeover Exacerbates Info-Access Difficulty

Successes versus problems in CPSC's new website design boil down to presentation versus findability of information within it. The agency has fixed the absence of mobile-friendly format as well as recent the problems with lagging. Though the tab options are unchanged, navigating the subsections seems more intuitive. The landing page, whether via mobile or desktop, does a good job of pushing out most of the information that the agency wants various stakeholders to see. However, CPSC's long-standing problems in making other information findable not only continued, they worsened. Some examples of included:

  • Public Calendar: Notices for future meetings are not available online as of this writing. The latest is one that occurred September 27. Choosing "Oct" and "2016" in the fields for sorting by date generates zero notices despite numerous meetings planned in the first week of the month and beyond. Though the emailed Public Calendar has upcoming sessions, it is a poor alternative for tracking late-announced meetings as it is goes out only once a week; the online version operates as the Master Calendar.

  • Searching by Date: This function remains useless. It long has failed to distinguish between ages of items and immaterial, background updates made to them. For example, a by-date search for phthalates generates nothing from the past 14 months among the first few dozen hits. The first working URL (the third item) is a December 2013 item on testing and certification Next are multiple listings of the general page on the chemicals (updated in July 2015 and the newest on the first page of results). Then come March 2010 and June 2001 documents. These four are far from the most recent (see related story in this issue for one posted in late September), and, in any event, their order is not chronological. The sorting chaos currently is exacerbated by the mass update of pages into the new format. (PSL does not rely on such date searches for newsgathering, using instead a more-thorough, manual method to find recent items.)

  • URLs: Many have changed, which is not uncommon for website updates. However, as CPSC relies on Google for its search function, many hits currently have non-working links. This problem presumably will be alleviated as the changes populate in Google, but stakeholders who saved URLs might need to relocate items.