First things first – the Website. The old version was kind of like your grandma’s attic – there was a lot of stuff there and you couldn’t see anything because you had to see everything. It looked old. It was like being in a bargain store where there are too many bargains.
The new version is very nice and neat. It isn’t like someone came into the attic and cleaned it up and put things where they belong, it is like they pulled a dumpster up to the house, emptied it all in there, and then went to IKEA and filled with all nice, new neat stuff. The most compelling feature is that the landing page is CLEAN and follows a logic. Tabs are nicely displayed at the top to feature each area in which the FDA operates and there are some nifty icons to the right that direct distinct stakeholders – consumers and patients, health professionals, scientists and researchers and finally industry, though not one for media which might have been a good idea. The information is grouped and organized and the space is not crowded.
It being new, there are a few bugs. Most of the links on the landing page don’t work, for example and there is no link to the Webmaster so that you can alert the agency to that fact, which is a must for an agency this size. One important and interesting feature was also a display of links to the various social media platforms that the agency has – platforms for which it is two years late on producing a guidance for industry’s use. While the links are great, I have always been a proponent of putting those assets in the upper right hand corner of the landing page, but at least they are there.
And it is not just the landing page that is new. The pages of all the divisions are also revamped in similar styles and have their own news sections going, so if you are interested in just seeing Food news, you can do that at the Food tab and likewise for the others. No live readout of their respective twitter feeds though, which would have been a nice touch.
A curious observation – one FDA working area without a tab is the Office of Prescription Drug Promotion, formerly known as the Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising and Communications (DDMAC). And if you go to the A-Z index, it isn’t listed there either. It is not clear what kind of page it has, though performing a search of the site found this.
And now to the blog – FDA Voice. There have been only three entries since the first which was by FDA Commissioner Hamburg on December 23. The blog is intended to have multiple authors. It is a great way for FDA to communicate on matters of importance by a vehicle that is not written in bureaucracy-speak, such as guidances or even press releases. It is a way for them to get across a point of view on an unfolding matter that can provide some new insights, such as the second posting from Dr. Jeffrey Shuren regarding the many changes in the regulation of medical devices this year. The challenge here will be to keep it real by actually engaging on issues and explaining things in a way that invites dialog rather than “talks at” stakeholders with a point of view. The blog is nice and clean, though doesn’t link to many resources. Sadly, it lacks a blog roll, but I hope if they had one, Eye on FDA would be on it!
The FDA Transparency blog is not linked to this blog nor vice versa, which is an oversight. It also was not linked on the landing page of the FDA site even though FDA Voice was. The Transparency blog also has not had an entry since December 12, leading one to wonder if it is going to continue. To find it, I went to the A-Z search and did not find it, but rather I had to do a search.
Congratulations to the FDA on taking this important step on the Internet and social media. Now if they can just take that other step …. the one we’ve all been waiting for.