DHS Web site makeover trips up users

Originally posted Oct. 20 at 2:52 PM and updated Oct. 20 at 4:11 PM

(UPDATED) The Homeland Security Department debuted a new Web site this week, and discarded most of its old Web addresses, to mixed reactions by users.

While the new Web site is being praised for its slick appearance, complaints are flowing about the elimination of many former DHS Web pages.

A Web surfer trying to link to a former DHS Web site through a bookmarked address now will arrive at a blank page with an error message, rather than being automatically directed to a new DHS address. Hundreds of former DHS page links are now invalid.

"The new site has already caused significant problems for people trying to find information," Michael Hampton, editor in chief and publisher of a blog called Homeland Stupidity, wrote Thursday. "Once you're used to the new layout, things may well be easier to find. But when I first ran across the site, it wasn't the site I saw, but a nasty 404 error page telling me they'd redesigned the site and ? you guessed it ? failed to preserve all the old URLs. This is one of many things that indicates poor site design, as URLs are supposed to be valid forever."

"The new look is good, and the site seems to run a bit faster than it previously did," writes Christian Beckner, a blogger on the Homeland Security Watch Web site. "One major gripe, however ? no effort was made to redirect legacy links within the site. I've linked to hundreds of pages deep within DHS.gov over the last ten months, and all of these links are now defunct."

DHS, in a brief statement on its Web site, said the new design was launched after more than a year of research and planning to improve access to information, update the look and create a navigation system that can grow with DHS.

The department is addressing the concerns and creating automatic links to the most popular pages of the new site, said Larry Orluskie, a DHS spokesman. Staff members are using software to track the frequency of the error messages, and automatic links will be created for the addresses requested most frequently, he said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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