Makeover at FDA: Agency revamps website, aiming for user-friendly and tech-savvy

FDA Building 2
With a sweeping refresh of its website, the FDA ushers in a modern tech platform and more consumer friendly design and use. (FDA)

The FDA’s got a new look. A revamped FDA.gov website made its debut, designed to be more user-friendly and easily viewable on any device.

The new site is built on a modern content management system, allowing the agency to add in structured data and enable third-party apps, among other things, CIO Amy Abernathy said on Twitter.

The site definitely has more visuals, starting with the home screen, where the current featured content comes with large photos of a bee, a pollen-laden tree and a little girl sneezing, with a link to an article about allergy relief for children.

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Nearly 5 million people visit the FDA's public website each month, the agency said in an announcement. "It serves as the face of the agency and a critical vehicle for meeting FDA’s mission, as it’s home to agency policy and perspectives and information about recalls, safety alerts and important regulatory actions," the agency said. "Ensuring that this content is easy to find is a top priority."

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One noticeable change for regular users is the primary navigation setup: It has switched to general industry areas from agency names and acronyms. The menu no longer lists links to FDA sub-agencies like OPDP or CDER, but instead uses common nouns listed under “products we regulate.”

Visitors now navigate to sections tagged Foods, Drugs, Medical Devices, Radiation-Emitting Products, Vaccines, Blood and Biologics, Animal and Veterinary, Cosmetics and Tobacco Products. A click on any of those choices takes users to a dedicated page. More and bigger visuals, plus the content they illustrate, stand front and center, but beneath those features are links to specific topic areas—and sub-agency pages—with familiar content such as guidance documents, warning letters, drug applications and recent drug approvals.

Abernathy, acting CIO and deputy commissioner, explained the update on Twitter: “We’ve modernized our website to pave the way for future APIs, structured data and third-party integrations.” She also mentioned a goal to make the site more user-friendly by reorganizing content and decluttering pages.

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Mark Senak, a public relations professional and author of the Eye on FDA blog, assessed the revamp in a blog post. His conclusion? A general thumbs-up.

“It looks a heck of a lot better and the navigation is less confusing now that everything is removed from a single frame shot," he said. "The order of things as you scroll down is pretty logical, though the demarcation of sections is subtle. It was certainly due for a change."

Susannah Fox, former chief technology officer at HHS, also gave her endorsement on Twitter in a reply to Abernathy, writing, “I happened to visit yesterday, researching this post and was bowled over by the usability! Congrats to all involved.”

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