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Reader Participation Day: What Would You Like To See On National Park Websites?

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What information do you think should be on the homepage of every national park website?

Some of the first websites folks head to to research national park matters are, of course, those run by the National Park Service. What suggestions would you make to the agency to improve its sites?

Is there any specific information you think should be on the homepage of each park's site?

The look and feel of each website is the same, well almost the same.  Some are missing information that I'd like to see on every website, preferably in a clear accessible corner, not three levels deep.

For instance:

When did the unit become part of the NPS system? Some parks proudly proclaim it - the Smokies 1934. For others, it's very difficult even when talking to rangers and volunteers at the site. There's always an official day, even if the unit had a convoluted history.
 
* Who is the current superintendent of the park? I like to put a face and a name to the park.
 
* Where is the park located? Just an idea of the state (s) and which corner. This might not be important for large, iconic parks, but for small units it would be helpful to see quickly if your road trip passes close to the park.

What suggestions would you pass on to the Park Service's webmeisters?

Comments

A one-click link to all electronic documents that are online pertaining to that particular park.  While this information is available on the NPS History E-Library, having an icon that one can click on that would automatically do a search of all pertinent documents for this park would be quite handy for research purposes.


As another ranger who had web duties (amongst many other projects) thanks for all the good comments about the NPS webpages. For those folks suggesting Google maps, there are some issues about using them which hopefully will get straightened out. I know I'll try and use some of your great ideas to improve my own park's webpage.


Anonymous,

Difficult to obtain maps? Today's on-line options make it fairly easy, though I'll agree it's certainly not like the instant gratification you get from going to a website and downloading the map in question.

For what it's worth, Traveler readers can get a 10 percent discount on purchases from Eastern National, a cooperating association that offers a slew of trail maps, from those covering Apostle Islands and New River Gorge to Buffalo National River and Mammoth Cave. The discount code is "NPT2011."

Yes, it takes a little advance planning, but that's what the winter and early spring months are for;-)


Ranger Bill -- thank you for all your work.  Despite its overwhelming nature, you and others like you continue to provide yeoman service for all of us.

And Danny, yes, but obtaining maps from those organizations is difficult and takes weeks some times.


Because our trips usually include our children, I would appreciate up-to-date information on Junior Ranger programs. Sometimes these are sites are good, sometimes they don't even mention whether they have a junior ranger program or not.


Thanks for all suggestions and comments. They show that we really do use the park website and scour them thoroughly.

Some (most??) of the information requested is available from the park's cooperative partners, like the Great Smoky Mountains Association or the Yosemite Association. They publish maps and books in great detail.

Danny
www.hikertohiker.com


Lots of good comments here. As webmaster for my park (which will remain nameless) I would like to make everyone happy. Sadly, there are things I can't change. One of the biggest is the structure or heirarchy. It's pretty much set in stone, the maps will always be three clicks away.

Also, to my knowledge, very few, if any, parks have full time Web people. The website is one of many duties I have, and I can't devote my full attention to it as well as supervise eight rangers, three visitor centers, the parkwide volunteer program, reply to every e-mail that comes in from the website, respond to emergencies, and a lot of other things. I'm not making excuses, just pointing out that where big companies might have fulltime Web staffs, we get it done with park rangers who have a lot of other duties on their plates, and who often don't have any specialized training in web development.

I do plan to keep watching this discussion and implementing what good ideas I can. We are here to serve you. Thank you all for your continuing support of the National Parks.


Anonymous at 12:18 -- beside the captcha box are three red symbols.  Click the top one and the captcha image changes.  Sometimes you have to click two or three times, but if you're patient one will finally pop up that even my old eyes can read.

(I just had to do it this time.  One click.)


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