Issue Date: March 20, 2006
Progress Report: ACS Web Reinvention
One of the society's major ongoing activities is the ACS Web Presence Initiative. In this comment, I'd like to provide an update on that initiative, a project that promises to transform the way ACS communicates and interacts with its current and future members, the chemical enterprise, and the public at large. For further information about other ACS accomplishments in 2005, please see www.cen-online.org/acsnews/84/8412acsreport.html.
First, let me provide a little background about ACS and the Web. ACS was an early and avid adopter of the Web. According to chemistry.org Assistant Director Louise Voress, the society's presence on the Web dates back 10 years, when the ACS website was launched at www.acs.org. In the same year, 1996, the ACS Publications Division launched its online journals, one of the first scholarly societies to do so. Later that year, ChemCenter was launched and incorporated major Web resources of the ACS Publications Division and Chemical Abstracts Service.
ChemCenter was relaunched in 1999, incorporating content from across all ACS programs and the existing ACS website. Voress notes that as member and user needs evolved, ACS relaunched its website in early 2001 as chemistry.org. Version 1 displayed the full breadth of ACS resources to specific audiences. Version 2 implemented a portal, which allowed functions such as personalization; gated communities that allowed controlled access to members of division-only content; and the opportunity to manage individual member records online in real time.
Over time, chemistry.org has become one of the most valued member benefits. The site has more than 37,500 visits each day, and 23% of our visitors are from outside the U.S. We have more than 175,000 registered users—82,702 are ACS members. Members also are increasingly utilizing the online dues renewal option.
Similarly, our electronic journals are in widespread use and are quickly supplanting print journals because of their ease of use and search capabilities. New technology systems are being implemented this year that will speed the submission and peer review process of journal articles.
But as frequent users of both chemistry.org and our publications websites know, these are not perfect websites. In addition, the technology platforms supporting our websites are not robustly integrated and are in need of upgrades.
Most important, our members are always looking for new, more efficient ways to communicate, learn, and collaborate. Technology, especially the Web and mobile communications, is rapidly advancing and causing new user behaviors. Our members' expectations and behaviors are evolving, too. To remain a relevant part of your lives and deliver the value you expect, ACS has to respond to your needs and evolve as well.
In early 2004, with the full support of the ACS Board of Directors, we launched a project to "reinvent chemistry.org." Because C&EN Online is an excellent website, I asked C&EN Editor-in-Chief Rudy Baum to head the project. For the past two years, he has worked with Membership Division Director Denise Creech, Publications Division President Robert Bovenschulte, chemistry.org's Voress, and others to reinvent both chemistry.org and our publications' websites. In August 2005, the ACS Board of Directors approved $9.4 million over a 30-month period beginning in 2006 to carry out the full project. In September, John Sullivan joined ACS from AARP as our new chief information officer and began working on the project as well. In November, we hired Paul LaPorte as director of Web strategy.
The Web Presence team has completed a detailed analysis of ACS websites and high-level technical analysis of the information technology infrastructure. LaPorte has established an organizational structure to enable rapid updates and innovation on the Web. The team has completed research on user behaviors. The first phase of the information architecture initiative is complete, and a concept model for the new Web presence has been developed. A Web community for ACS local section, division, and committee webmasters is being piloted. During the next six months, the project will examine and select new search and analytics tools, evaluate content management applications, and develop Web-content migration strategies.
You'll begin to notice significant changes on our websites in the next 12-18 months. Members and other users will receive more value with every Web interaction. You will experience a noticeable change in ease of use and navigation, more logical access to timely and more relevant information, more user control, an integrated experience, and new products and services that fulfill more of your everyday needs.
The goal for our new website is simple and powerful, LaPorte says: "to become an everyday place for scientists to come to meet, work, communicate, and collaborate." The Web Presence motto is "building value online every time"—we want to maximize the value constituents receive when interacting with ACS.
We know you wear many hats, and we want to be sure we understand all your needs. If you are in Atlanta at the ACS national meeting, stop by the chemistry.org booth (#922 in the convention center) to experience emerging online business and communications tools through a hands-on lab, provide feedback through several computer stations, and participate in short presentations and focus groups. If you aren't going to the ACS national meeting, send us your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.
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