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The White House launched a radically redesigned Data.gov website Tuesday, in an effort to improve government data transparency and easy access.
The redesign marks a major turning point for the website, which was launched in 2009 and underwent a light redesign in 2010. The new site boasts a rotating data visualization masthead (currently showing USGS earthquake data) followed by a stream of articles, reports, and social media posts, which is an eerily close replica of the Google+ stream.
Data is now directly on the homepage, instead of buried beneath layers of links and menus of the old site.
The redesign comes just one week after President Obama spoke on opening government data to the American people. “Dealing with the federal government is not always high-technology and user-friendly,” Obama said, but Data.Gov aims to change that.
“For the first time in history, we’ve opened up huge amounts of government data to the American people, and put it on the Internet for free. At Data.gov, you can search through and download more than 75,000 data sets — data on everything from what different hospitals charge for different procedures, to credit card complaints, to weather and climate measurements. And what’s happening is entrepreneurs and business owners are now using that data — the people’s data –to create jobs and solve problems that government can’t solve by itself or can’t do as efficiently.”
Both this speech and the Data.Gov redesign build on the President’s May 2013 Open Data Executive Order. In an era of Edward Snowden, PRISM, and concerns about the government’s data practices, the Data.Gov redesign team appears to be taking its task very seriously. (Be sure to note, as Carl Franzen of The Verge pointed out, “the NSA and other intelligence agencies are notably absent from the list of participating agencies on the current Data.gov.”).
The team includes Presidential Innovation fellows and Office of Science and Technology Policy staff. The press release announcing the redesign calls the new site “a very early beta,” that aims to “fuse open-data practices into the Federal Government’s DNA.”
While the site is primarily a data-focused one, the redesign also showcases some well thought-out and attractive design practices, from the visualized masthead all the way down to the fonts. Even as an early beta, the new site is fluid, intuitive, and well organized.
Jon Salm is an associate client analyst at Millward Brown Digital in New York City and a freelance data journalist in the Visual.ly marketplace. He has a bachelor’s degree in English from Washington and Lee University. You can find him online at about.me/salm.jon and follow him on twitter @S4LM3R.