IEEE Spectrum Online: Content Is Liberated!

Spectral lines

PHOTO: IEEE SPECTRUM

Lucky you: A quarter of a billion Web sites now compete for your attention. Meanwhile, desk jockeys are uploading 20 hours of video to YouTube every minute—that’s 33 minutes of content a second. Twitter and other social networks, with their constant stream of updates, suck up whatever spare time you might have left.

It was against this tumult that we set out, 20 months ago, to revamp IEEE Spectrum Online. The motivation was straightforward: To thrive, we’ve got to make our Web site a part of your daily media diet.

The new site was unveiled in early June, with everything you need to troll through our vast, nutrient-rich information or quickly zero in on a specific bit of knowledge. Instead of updating the site daily, we’re blasting out new stories in multiple mediums several times a day, which you can now follow by using our RSS feeds. We’ve liberated our blog and multimedia content from the silos where they’ve languished far too long. Every hour, the latest entries from our blogs—Automaton, EnergyWise, Risk Factor, Sandbox, and Tech Talk—pop up all over the site, including in our topical, newly refurbished channels and subchannels.

In addition to our stalwarts Semiconductors and Computing, we’ve added new channels we think you’ll find compelling: Aerospace, Green Tech, and Robotics, as well as the career-oriented At Work and the lifestyle-based Geek Life. These channels let you drill down into deep reserves of Spectrum content, much of which you may never have seen before.

We’ve also expanded our multimedia offerings by adding audio slide shows, which showcase our staff’s expertise in gathering compelling audio—used in our broadcast-quality podcasts—along with stunning photography, which you can now enjoy on practically every page of our site.

And everywhere you go, starting with our easy-to-navigate home page, you will be guided by the choices you and your fellow visitors make via our traveling table of contents: Most Viewed, Most E-mailed, and Most Commented-on boxes appear everywhere to help guide you to the hottest content. Building a community around our content was so important to us—and to you, our loyal visitors—that we’ve improved the ease with which you can leave comments and join the conversation around topics of the day. Even the sponsors of our webinars are stoking the community vibe by offering series of live events on topics like robotics, which are drawing return visitors and building connections among engineers with similar interests.

A great Web site gives the illusion that it was effortless to create. Nothing could be further from the truth. The long process of improving our Web site started with usability studies of the existing site. As we watched through a one-way mirror, people attempted to perform tasks like signing up for a webinar, posting comments to a blog, or finding an article. It will come as no surprise that most Web sites have major ”user experience” problems. Our site proved to be no exception.

Sufficiently chastened, we did some soul searching and then moved on to making it better. We had to rethink the way people find what they want, talk about it with each other, and keep coming back for more. For us, that meant building the site so that the content we produce on the back end automatically winds up in the right spots on the front end, freeing our writers and editors to do what they do best—keep you abreast of the latest technological innovations and provide you with a context in which to understand their implications.

Which brings us to our second usability study takeaway: We need to make sure Spectrum Online allows you to explore the content-rich world of both Spectrum and IEEE. In doing so we hope to promote IEEE to new audiences of potential members while connecting the dots for current members and other users. We’re already automatically linking to related content from the IEEE Xplore digital library on pages throughout the site. And we’re planning to bring you related content from IEEE’s societies and conferences in the very near future.

We’d love to hear what you think about our latest effort and your suggestions for making things better. And for a list of all the folks who worked so hard to make the new site possible, go to spectrum.ieee.org/static/thank-you.

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