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Frequently Asked Questions about the Next Generation of Water Data for the Nation

Q: What is Water Data for the Nation? I've always called this website NWISWeb.

A: You’re not the only one! But we’re trying to create a distinction between NWIS, the water data repository, and the web interface that delivers that data. In fact, the home page of NWISWeb never said “Welcome to NWISWeb”, but always said “Water Data for the Nation.” We are staying true to the original intent and emphasizing the Water Data for the Nation (WDFN) brand.

Q: Are real-time pages of today being discontinued?

A: No. All pages the public and USGS have come to rely on will continue operate. The old “classic” pages will not be decommissioned until we are certain all essential functionality has been conserved and captured in our new pages.

Q: You’re calling the old NWISWeb pages “classic” or “legacy” pages. What do you mean?

A: A classic car can be a fine machine–forever the best of its era. But should the evolution of cars stop because we have classic cars? We are maintaining the old while the new is developed; and during this period, full up time and operational support of classic pages can be expected.

Q: You’re saying you’re conserving old pages. Why are you using the word “conserve” instead of, say “preserve?”

A: Preservation is about the past, like pouring a coat of amber over something to prevent it from changing or even a pixel from being moved. Conservation is about the future; it is about carrying the very best of the past into the future.

Q: So when will the pages of today be discontinued?

A: We don’t know yet. That depends on feedback, software-development effectiveness, budgets, and other elements that are difficult to predict. It is likely both old and new pages will run in parallel for at least a couple years.

Q: I like the website as it is today. What’s wrong with it?

A: In one sense, not much. It does, in fact, publish USGS water data successfully, and has maintained high levels of availability and speed for over 15 years. But a wider view reveals that its 1999 origins are out of step with current web technology and usability standards.

The redesign of real-time pages is based on several sources of information: a comprehensive inventory of existing NWISWeb functionality, customization of pages by USGS Water Science Centers, user surveys, web analytics, and the USGS Water Science Strategy.

The new user interface will be more accessible for all users - especially new ones. The re-design puts data at the top of the page, is mobile ready, uses human-readable names and terms, and is built for integration with other applications and data sources. The codebase and infrastructures are optimized for performance and up-time, and instrumented with auditing tools and vulnerability detection. Data integrity remains paramount. Finally, an iterative software development process will engage users early in the development process and produce frequent, meaningful improvements.

Q: The new real-time pages hardly do anything! Where are my favorite features?

A: The new pages released in fall 2018 are just the beginning, not the end. We will continue to incorporate the very best and important features of today’s real-time pages, along with new features and improvements. Until there is broad agreement the old pages have been conserved, the new pages will remain beta products, not the default.

Q: NWISWeb data discovery and site navigation always has been awkward. Are you fixing this?

A: Yes, we will be improving the navigation and data discovery interface. But we also know that external search engines are the source of most web traffic to NWISWeb, so we will be making the redesigned pages as “crawlable” and “friendly” to search engine robots as possible.

Q: Do you still want input from USGS employees and the public?

A: Yes, more than ever. Feedback is intrinsic to our design process, and can be provided via a web form located at the top of each beta real-time water data page. By users’ feedback and through their actions (tracked by web analytics), we will optimize site design and functionality. USGS cooperators and public users alike must help us understand the water data they need.

Feedback

Please direct any questions or comments about new real-time site pages here. or open an issue on Github at wdfn-blog

Disclaimer

“Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.”