By Mr. Bryan Gatchell (IMCOM)November 20, 2013
ANSBACH, Germany (Nov. 20, 2013) -- After months of work, incorporating input from across the garrison and the community, U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach launched its new website Nov. 15. The purpose of the site is to make more information more accessible with greater efficiency to the Ansbach community.
The website, which is still located at www.ansbach.army.mil, is a thorough redesign that includes not only aesthetic changes to the template but also encompasses a greater range and depth of information.
"The difference between the old website and the new one is the amount of research that's done to find out what people are looking for," said Thomas B. Hamilton III, webmaster for the installation. "The research was much greater and the scope was broadened. It's not just who you need to contact before you get here, it is 'This is what you can expect when you get here, and here is the information you need to know before you get here.'
"The community was asked 'What are you looking for on a website?'" continued Hamilton. "Through meetings, discussions and working groups, we found out what the community was looking for, and we designed it for the community by the community rather than just putting out there what we think the community needs. The community told us what they needed, and we answered their call."
The home page lays out a number of different easily navigable choices for the user to explore information about the garrison. Front and center is a slide show featuring the latest news from the Franconian News' army.mil news stories. To the right of that are "Hot Topics," which scrolls the most current, most relevant information about the post. Below Hot Topics are three different blogs: The Command Blog, Rumor Control and Schools Blog. The blogs are a new avenue for the community to interact in greater depth online with the command group, sort out the truth behind what rumors might float around the garrison and get the most up-to-date information about the Department of Defense schools on post.
"It's not just that the blogs are going to expand, but the social interaction is going to expand too," said Hamilton.
The home page also includes links to several other avenues of communication, including its growing Flickr photo-sharing page, its Facebook page, and its incipient Youtube page. For the sake of immediacy, there is a pane featuring the garrison's Facebook posts updated as soon as the information is posted to Facebook and a weather pane showing current weather conditions.
Also on the home page are links to an events calendar for Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, which provides a multitude of services on post for USAG Ansbach community members, and an events calendar for community events happening throughout Germany off post.
For easy navigation, the website includes a common header and footer section throughout.
The header has drop-down menus, which contain information about the command team, the history of the garrison, the history of the area and newcomer information in "ABOUT US"; information about attaining driver's licenses, shipping household goods, recycling, legal assistance, registering to vote and more in "MOVING & LIVING HERE"; policy letters on access control, trash disposal, wearing uniforms off post and more under "POLICIES"; phone directories, dialing instructions, emergency numbers and more under "DIRECTORIES"; contact information under "CONTACT US"; and navigation back to the home page at "HOME."
The footer section contains community guides, environment and safety information, on- and off-post medical resources, school newsletters and a miscellaneous section. In addition to these links, there is also an array of graphical buttons providing valuable links to local and on-post bus schedules, the interactive customer evaluation site, German train schedules, the Army's Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Program, the Outreach Kontakt Club and more.
The phone directory, which can be found in "DIRECTORIES" in the header or at the "Phone Directory" button of the footer, replaces the PDF flipbook used by the previous website. The advantage to the new directory is greater navigability due to cross-referencing and a simpler, faster-loading format and the ability to dial the numbers directly from your smartphone or tablet. For example, if a user wanted to find the number of the Illesheim clinic, they would click "M" for the M section of the directory and click "Medical Clinics." The link would then bring the user to a list of all on-post medical clinics. Then the user can just tap the phone number on his or her smartphone or tablet and the number will dial automatically. Previously phonebook users would have to flip and read through a book-format directory and then manually dial the phone number to his or her smartphone or tablet.
Also to aid navigability is a search bar at the top right of the website above the header. If a visitor to the site is unsure where to look for a specific piece of information, they can type in the word or phrase they are looking for, click "Search Our Site," and a list of pages containing the phrase will appear for the user to choose from.
In response to customer feedback before the first snow of the 2013-2014 winter season Nov. 20, the website features an entire page dedicated to weather, road conditions, and winter driving safety. There is a button on the home page to access this Web page, and there is a direct link to the IMCOM-E Road Conditions website to ensure the community is informed of the current road conditions.
According to Hamilton, the website expanded from 16 pages to more than 50 pages. Besides more information, part of that expansion is new interactive features that would not have been possible on the previous website. What is also different is that the new website changes and evolves as the community discovers information they would like on the website and provides feedback for those items on the website currently. This website is truly by the community and for the community.
"One of the big things to be included was a route finder and maps of the area," said Hamilton. "There is now a route finder that is from kaserne to kaserne. We have GPS coordinates of all the installations in Europe, so you can just plug it into your GPS navigator. We have maps and directions to all the local hospitals in case of emergency. All you have to do is -- and it's mobile-ready -- touch it, and it gives you the directions, it gives you the time, distance, heading and you're there."
To learn more, visit the site today at www.ansbach.army.mil. Whether you live and work at USAG Ansbach or are planning to arrive here, this is one of the best ways to explore your hometown in Europe.