White House to unveil new Web site

Eight months after Bush administration staff took control of the White House Web site, a revamped version of the site is scheduled to be launched in late summer or early fall.

The site will have better graphics, navigation tools and a "superior" search engine, said a White House spokesman.

The launch is a long time coming, as administration officials had said in late April that they planned in "a couple of weeks" to relaunch the site with a fresh look. Currently, the site emphasizes daily press releases, presidential speeches and transcripts from White House officials' press conferences.

"We wanted to make a much better Web site, and we've done that," spokesman Jimmy Orr said of the planned redesign. "It's taken a lot of coordination." Jane Cook, who created Bush's Web site while he was governor of Texas, designed the new White House Web site. However, there will not be a single webmaster but rather a team of about a dozen people from the press, communications, strategic initiatives and correspondence offices who will maintain the site. Orr declined to specify details of the new site, but he said it will be similar to the site Bush used during his campaign, which included some interactive functions and information on various policy issues. "The new Web site will reflect the president's initiatives and focuses, but it will also emphasize the White House as an institution," Orr said. "It will also continue to offer rich content, with a much improved design, better navigation, superior search engine and emphasis on accessibility for the disabled community, as well as a brand new kids section." The change will be none too soon for some observers. John Coleman, the founder of CDG Solutions, a Washington-based Web-development firm, said while the current site "isn't bad," it also is not being used to its potential. The White House site could be a tool for Bush to augment his efforts to promote his initiatives, such as education reform, or to explain the benefit of the tax cut package to individuals, he said. "The Web site is the perfect tool for every student to use to learn about Bush's education initiative," said Coleman. "I would think that they would have a whole section on that. Maybe they just aren't thinking of the Web site as a media mechanism." Orr said the White House "fully appreciates the value and opportunities" of the Internet and hence has made every effort to communicate the president's position on issues and post that information. He also said the new site will take further advantage of the "unlimited potential of the Internet."

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