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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-11-001    Date:  November/December 2010
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-11-001
Issue No: Vol. 74 No. 3
Date: November/December 2010


The National Highway Institute (NHI) Training Update

901 N. Stuart Street, Suite 300
Arlington, VA 22203

by Lilly Pinto

NHI Redesigns and Enhances Its Web Site

Over the past decade, the National Highway Institute (NHI) has built a considerable portfolio of Web-based trainings and moved all course registration and material purchasing functions online. With its Web site as the hub of these online activities, NHI officials knew that an improved site style and navigation was vital to continuing to deliver high-quality customer service. To draw out what users liked and disliked about the existing Web site, NHI conducted a usability study -- targeted research delivered through interviews with NHI customers.

NHI used the findings to prioritize updates to the design, features, functionality, and content of the Web site (www.nhi.fhwa.dot.gov). The redesign process is occurring during multiple phases, with a majority of changes implemented by the end of 2010. Several significant features, such as sign-on functionality and home page and navigation redesign, are intended to improve the user experience, as well as increase Web site capabilities. The new features will make login, scheduling, searching, and completing NHI trainings easier for all users.

"Within the last few years, there has been an increase in the number of customers who felt the Web site lacked important information, or they had trouble finding information due to the site's unclear processes and missing features," says Josh Kersey, a management consultant engaged by NHI to lead the redesign. In addition, Heather Shelsta, NHI's program manager for systems and marketing, says, "Today's Web users expect a higher level of functionality, especially since so many now rely on Web-based training. The redesigned site will meet such demands -- and, we hope, exceed them."

Simplified Sign-on and Redesign

The first phase of the update, completed in March 2010, included implementing "My Training," a single sign-on feature. The new feature directly launches Web-based and Web-conference trainings on the site, and enables customers to view a list of scheduled and past Web-based and Web-conference trainings they have taken. "My Training" also allows customers to access and download training documents (for Web-based and Web-conference trainings only), such as personalized certificates for successfully completed courses, unofficial transcripts, and electronic materials ordered from the NHI Store. While logged in, customers also can request an official transcript from the NHI Registrar.

During the second phase, completed in August 2010, NHI launched the home page and navigation redesign. The updates included a new home page with changes to fonts, colors, and images; a new left-side navigation bar and site map at the bottom of each page; navigation options in the center-right of the home page; and a course search box on each page, which enables site users to find courses on any page at any time.

Phase two of the NHI Web site redesign tackled the navigation and style issues of the original Web site, while maintaining all the strengths of the old Web site. For example, NHI retained several previous Web site features in the new design, such as displaying new courses on the home page, providing clear and informative course descriptions, maintaining an easy shopping and checkout process, and emailing updates to site users who sign up.

Overall, the improved design aims to make the NHI site more accessible and easy to read by giving users the information they need upfront. NHI expects that the streamlined content and simple design not only give regular users increased accessibility, but also will attract new users and potential customers.

Continuous Site Evolution

Although the phase one and two enhancements made dramatic changes to the site, NHI plans to make continual improvements over the next few years. The remaining improvements, though less significant than the already implemented changes, were developed based on the usability study. NHI will implement these additional changes gradually.

By the end of 2011, site users can expect to see updates such as Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds that enable customers to set preferences to receive email updates on specific NHI subject areas, print and share features, and improvements to the NHI Store to make downloading electronic documents faster and easier.

"Our mission at NHI is to improve the performance of the transportation industry through training, and our Web site is a critical tool for doing this," says Shelsta. "Using customer feedback, we will continue to evolve the Web site, as well as all NHI services, to meet the needs of the transportation community."

For more information, please visit www.nhi.fhwa.dot.gov.

Screen grab from NHI’s updated home page at www.nhi.fhwa.dot.gov.
The redesigned home page features improved functionality.

Lilly Pinto is a contractor for NHI.




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