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Europa, the official inter-institutional and multilingual web portal of the EU institutions has been revamped today (21 September 2009) with the objective of making it “easier to find what you’re looking for on the EU site’s main pages – in any official EU language”.

A target group approach

With the help of Ernst & Young who run a comprehensive analysis involving user groups, DG Communication followed an audience-based approach through dividing the overall architecture into six main themes focusing on the Internet visitors’ needs.

First impressions

Well, the new homepage has a simpler, more uniform layout, with content presented in a more logical way focusing on navigation continuity, with access to the full menu on all pages, to prevent users from getting lost after the first click.

What’s also interesting a tutorial has been created to shows how to navigate the top levels of the website and find the information needed.

Toward a new Europa
Toward a new Europa

A complex transitional web project

Running such a multilingual / inter-institutional web project is quite complex partly because of its history partly because its decentralized structure.

Back in 1995

Europa was first developed in 1995 – which was very early for such an important official website. Since then it evolved more or less organically without real coordination. While it seems convenient from an organizational point of view, it is very confusing for outsiders and does not help to improve the transparency of the European Institutions. Therefore, time came to bring some consistency and make it more user-friendly.

2009-2010

As far as I am concerned, it seems that Europa is entering a transitional period. While only the top-level structure has been revamped following a two-years analysis process, the deeper and vas majority of the website needs to be restructured accordingly which might be quite an issue knowing the decentralized organization of the European Commission (divided into DG, Directorates and then Units).

From a user-centered to a user-generated content approach

While Europa has been trying out web 2.0 tools such as fora (i.e. Debate Europe) and dipping its toes into social networks (i.e. Sea, Sun and SMS), the next final step might be to switch from a user-centered approach to a somewhat user-generated content approach.

Let’s wait and see!

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