Microsites, They’re Bigger Than You Think

Apr 21, 2016

Lately, we have been hearing a lot about microsites—CDC’s Zika Virus microsite provides up-to-date information on the virus—but the big question is:

What are they?

A microsite is a single or small collections of pages that are meant to encourage user interaction while conveying information. A microsite has the power to educate consumers regarding a specific topic or just highlight a campaign. Microsites are separate from an organization’s full website and are dedicated to serving one purpose—thus eliminating the clutter and distractions that come with a full website.

Screen capture of the Federal Front Door microsite.

A number of agencies use microsites for just those reasons. The Federal Front Door is a microsite devoted to making the federal government’s interactions with citizens better. The Department of Transportation uses microsites such as Ladders of Opportunity, Build America Transportation Investment Center, and their 50th Anniversary site to promote secretarial priorities. “Transportation microsites have to support key Department initiatives, use multimedia content, be frequently freshened, and have a minimum of 20 pages of content or be a distinct campaign whose particular URL will be decommissioned within a year (open to exception petitions, of course)” according to Todd Solomon, a digital strategist in the CIO’s office.

CDC is taking their microsites’ ability to focus attention on a single topic or campaign and powering them with API-driven content that can be placed on stakeholder websites. The above-mentioned Zika Virus microsite can be seen not only at CDC.gov, but in USA.gov and Gobierno.gov’s health content and many public health sites like The City of Columbus’ Zika page.

Are microsites for everyone?

Microsites can be costly if you need to stand up a completely new site. Microsites that have a different look and feel can also be confusing for users who are familiar with your agency’s main site. But, if you’re looking to promote a specific topic or campaign, then a microsite is a great solution. A microsite—being separate from your organization’s website—can reach new audiences. API-driven microsites can also extend the reach of your agency’s message by delivering content to audiences who wouldn’t normally visit your sites, and are efficient in the sense that when you update the content within your microsite, it’s updated automatically wherever they are embedded.

Christen Geiler is an Information Specialist, Office of the Director, Online Communications Branch, National Institutes of Health.