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Status Report on ALA’s Redesigned Web Site


last updated 1/28/2005


ALA’s Web site was redesigned in response to a growing call from members and the community at large.   Over the course of more than two years, staff and member Web developers identified the major problems with the old site, chose a vendor for development of a content management system and new look-and-feel for the site, collaborated with that vendor on development of the new system, and converted volumes of content from the old site into the new system.


Transition to the new Web site began on April 7, 2003, and clear technical and usability issues surfaced almost immediately.   The speed of the site was slow for the first few days, but was quickly remedied by hardware upgrades and adjustments to back-end server processes.   Issues with font size were also remedied in the first weeks of the transition, and content that had not been converted was added daily (and continued to be added regularly).  However, a number of issues persist, and below is a chart of these issues and the measures being undertaken to resolve them. A conversion status report is now available online which details the progress being made in moving content from the old site to the new site.


If you have any questions about the steps being taken to resolve these issues, or about other issues you would like to see addressed, please contact Debi Lewis, Web Development Manager at ALA, at or by phone at 800.545.2433 x3272. Feedback Form is now available to allow Web site users to send their specific comments to ALA regarding the new Web site.  Please check this page often for updates.





Long URLs

The URLs that make up our new Web site have proven difficult to share in emails and printed materials. 


ALA’s Web development vendor is currently working on a complex solution that will shorten existing URLs and allow content developers to create shorter URLs for future pages.  See our press release for details.


URLs were shortened the week of 1/19/2004


Search Engine Speed and Completeness of Collections

In the first months of the site transition, the search engine performed erratically and occasionally did not completely index the site each night.


ALA staff and their Web development vendor made a number of hardware improvements and programmatic changes to improve these issues by 8/26/2003.


These changes were deemed helpful, but did not completely resolve the problem. After evaluating six different search tools, ALA members, staff, and other Web site users decided to replace ALA's Verity K2 engine with the Google Search Appliance

Google configured and installed by 1/14/2005

Search Engine Relevance Ranking

ALA’s site uses Verity’s K2 Search Engine bundled with Macromedia Cold Fusion 5.0.   The relevance ranking has not been as customizable as expected and has caused sometimes confusing search results.


ALA’s Web development vendor is currently working on a number of improvements to the relevance ranking system.   Many improvements are programmatic changes to the collections process, and many will be collaborative with ALA staff to determine how the various pieces of content should be included in the ranking process.


New search engine installed on 8/26/2003


Google search engine installed on 1/14/2005


Site Map Length and Download Time

The current dynamically generated Site Map accurately reflects the complexity of ALA’s Web site, but as such, is difficult to read and takes a considerable amount of time to download, especially on slower Internet connections.



A short-term solution wherein the Site Map only displays the top three levels of navigation was employed while ALA Staff worked on a longer-term solution that involved manual creation of an intuitive site map.


Eventually, the site map was replaced. An ALA A to Z Site Map was added to the site to further help users find information organized topically and by familiar key words.


Short-term solution: 7/7/2003


Long-term solution: Fall 2004

Missing Content

Many pages that existed on ALA’s old Web site are not available on ALA’s new Web site.   Various reasons exist for this: much of ALA’s old site consisted of outdated content which has since been superseded by newer content; some content is scheduled to be added to the site in the near future as staff resources are allocated to continued conversion efforts; some pages were duplicated by other pages and have been consolidated; some content has been intentionally left off the new Web site because it has been determined to be archival in nature.



ALA Staff is compiling a report on the status of all unconverted content from its more than 100 Web developers, with the list to be made available from this Web page.   Users may currently contact for help finding missing content.


In addition, the 404 page of ALA’s Web site will, whenever possible, direct users who are attempting to reach URLs from ALA’s old site to archived versions of the content that formerly resided there, as well as offer users links to similar content on the new site.

Conversion Status Report now available


Improved 404 Page Added: 7/3/2003


Feedback Capabilities

Feedback regarding the site is currently available only as email links to,,, and  Users have requested a feedback form, both for ease of use at public terminals and for better targeting of comments.


A feedback form is in development by ALA staff. Further enhancements to the feedback form are coming in 2005.

Feedback Form now available