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The beta version of the new European Commission web presence has been launched. We’ve entered the phase where we test with users, and we can’t wait to hear what you think about it.

Since the Digital Transformation project was first conceived, our team has been busy researching, surveying, analysing, building and testing. Now, we’re moving on to the next stage: more testing, but in a real-world environment with real-world users (that’s you).

Our job up until now was to analyse why users come to our websites, and then to reorganise the architecture in a way that gets them where they need to be in as few clicks as possible. That’s no small feat when you consider the 3 million sprawling web pages we’ve had to sift through.

There were also interviews with all Commission departments, user research and testing (by phone, email and tête-à-têtes), work-shops, polling and presenting, and analysis of top searches, existing sites, corporate priorities, other institutional websites and the wider media - all with the aim of collecting and then reducing a colossal initial list of 1700 tasks to a more manageable list of 136 and, finally, to the all-important collection of 77 top tasks.

What you’ll find on the beta is just the tip of a very large digital iceberg; if you scratch far enough below the surface, you’ll likely find yourself on the same DG websites as before, only this time, we hope your path to the information will be clearer and more logical than before. For now, we are testing navigation, a new thematic approach, and much less focus on organisation structure.

Why we’re launching in beta

 You can only really get valuable feedback on a product once it’s been launched in the real world, bugs and all. Everything we’ve been developing so far has been tested only in controlled user tests, amongst ourselves and the internal departments of the Commission. But we’re not the ultimate end-users. You are, and we cannot think of all the scenarios in which you would use the information.

This is where you come in

Nobody’s perfect, and the launch of a beta website serves to avoid the pitfalls of an imperfect release. This is where we put our evidence-over-opinion mantra to the test. You should expect to find issues. Please, report them and let us know what you think. We put a feedback form at the bottom of each page just for that.

The beta: how does it work and what does it look like?

 In terms of structure, the site is divided into two different parts: the ‘information’ part (policies, strategies, services etc.), and the ‘political’ part, which focuses on the political work of the Commission, the Commissioners and its political priorities, which was launched earlier. It’s in the information part of the site that we hope to get the most meaty user feedback on, because this is the new part we would like to test now.

In terms of languages, as the site develops, some content will be available in all 24 EU languages and some content in fewer languages.

We're going with single-column layouts, which is best suited to our responsive design approach and makes the website usable across devices. We’re also structuring pages so that the most important content goes at the top – studies show that users are okay with scrolling down.

Breadcrumbs appear horizontally across the top of the page, and the menu, found at the top right of the screen, is being tested thoroughly (we’re looking at reducing the size on both desktop and mobile versions). We’re maximising the value of white space, deciding which content types should be image-rich, all the while working on our font.

(If you want to read more exhaustive details on where we are currently with the site visuals, please have a look at the page about this beta.)

So, here’s to an exciting new phase. The most important task for us now is to decide once and for all on the correct pronunciation of ‘beta’. Is it bett-ah? Beeta? Bey-tah? If you have any user feedback on this confounding mystery, the team would be very happy to hear it.

For more details, or to find out how you can give your thoughts on the beta site, get in touch with the team in the comments section below.