Top tip: There's no place like home

Tips on how to get the most out of the new portal

Translation ahead: the home page already translates the tagline 'Free and open access to biodiversity data' for users whose browser language preferences are already set to French, Spanish, Russian or Simplified Chinese.

There’s no place like home–or, in the words of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 'Do-Re-Mi':

Let's start at the very beginning,
A very good place to start.

With last week’s official release of the new website, traffic to the home page doubled. With such publicity, an increase is to be expected, but it's still not that much: visits to have averaged only four per cent of all pageviews since 2014.

As the Internet has developed, users more and more often by-pass home pages and leap straight to the content, using deep links from social media or search engines. But, since our new home page embodies and reflects some of our highest priorities for this redesign, we think it may be helpful to explain some of the choices we’ve made.

First off, front and (left-)center: the GBIF search function. For the first time, this represents a real, site-wide, search. We’ve streamlined the search experience as well as the underlying indexing, so that visitors can find what they’re looking for from the start. Occurrences, species, datasets, publishers, countries, news, projects, events — all the matching results will display, even when the term is ambiguous (looking at you, 'argentina' and 'georgia').

At the same time, if you really do know what you're looking for, you can immediately filter down to the main types of content on our site by typing in your search term and clicking on any of the five words across the top of the search box.

Just below the search box, we also try to guide newcomers with quick links to the ‘What is GBIF?’ overview and a customized link to the country page that corresponds to their IP address. The rotating banner images come from records in our index and include a direct link to the occurrence page. We trust that such examples will help visitors learn what the site contains.

One consistent complaint about the previous site was the difficulty of navigating it. still contains a massive amount of information, but we’ve tried to simplify and scale down the navigation. Taken in combination with the improvements made to the search function, we think it will be much easier for users to find their way around.

So, at the top of the home page (and every other page on the site) you will find, on the left, a simplified set of menus for easy navigation, and on the right, a toolbox.

This toolbox includes a place for us to share notifications, a quick link to the search page, a button for submitting a range of types of feedback (more details on that tomorrow), and access to your personal account via login.

We’ll let you explore on your own from here, but two last points for today.

First, try exploring on a phone or tablet. This version of has a “responsive design”, which means that it scales and organises the presentation to work on any size screen.

Finally, the slightest hint of what’s to come: more languages! Users whose language preferences are set to French, Spanish, Russian or Chinese (Simplified) may have already noticed that the tagline on the home page is shown in these languages. Right now, we’re doing some small things behind the scenes, but then we want to build on the work of our colleagues around the network and expand the range and depth of multilingual content and support. Look for a call for volunteers in the near future.

More shortly!