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EPA Microsite Format

A guide to creating microsites that comply with One EPA Web. Be sure you have first considered whether Resource Directory or Microsite is most appropriate for your content.

On this page:


Definition; Structure

The microsite format presents web content on a topic in a single, consolidated site with self-contained navigation. Content may come from several EPA offices. All content in a microsite has same look and feel and same area navigation. Microsites often include multimedia and social media outreach tools.

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Microsite Goals

  • Provide a unified location for information in a way that addresses the needs of the most significant audiences for that topic.
  • Raise the most appropriate content for targeted audiences to a top level.
  • Actively manage the content.

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  • An editor-in-chief (EIC) will be responsible for the development and active management of each microsite, including reviewing the metadata, managing and reviewing content, checking links, responding to comments/questions etc.
  • The site will be actively managed and frequently updated using management procedures defined by the EIC and editorial board.
  • Microsite development will include:
    • Reviewing content about a topic on existing sites to see if it needs to be rewritten to a specific audience, written more for the web, written in more plain language, etc.;
    • Identifying information needed to meet the needs of top audiences;
    • Conscious decision-making about how much to develop about each topic;
    • Incorporating the use of statistics to make decisions;
    • Removing duplicative or conflicting content on;
    • Creating a consolidated resource that, if appropriate, includes information from headquarters and Regional offices.
  • Once launched, microsite content will be regularly reviewed for currency, relevance, and removal, as appropriate.
  • EPA will promote microsites via multiple channels.

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Measures of Success

  • Improved visitor experience, measured by ACSI scores and other feedback methods.
  • Fewer broken internal links by using the Drupal WebCMS.

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Microsite Development

Editor-in-Chief Responsibilities

  • Identify the purpose for the site.
  • Identify 1-3 top audiences to properly focus content selection; for each of those audiences, identify the 1-3 top tasks they seek to accomplish when they come to
  • Choose most relevant content for each audience’s top tasks.
  • Ensure that metadata for all content, no matter the file type, exists and is appropriate.
  • Maintain and update the site, complete metadata review, manage and review content, review results of any usability testing, check links, respond to comments/questions, etc. using management procedures defined by the EIC and editorial board.
  • Regularly evaluate content for usefulness and applicability to targeted audiences.
  • See Roles and Responsibilities of One EPA Web Editors‐in‐Chief for more information.

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Work Products During Microsite Development

  • List of top audiences and tasks
  • Milestones / Production Schedule, including:
    • Content inventory and analysis, including:
    • Wireframes development
    • Determination of whether Office of Public Affairs (OPA) AA will need to review (contact Angela Shogren)
    • Content development, including:
      • Writing new content to address gaps in current content for top audiences
      • Adapting content for top audiences
      • Rewriting content for the web
    • Coding in CMS
    • Graphics development
    • Review, including any special approvals necessary for high-profile content
    • Launch date
    • Post-launch:
  • List of workgroup members, if applicable
  • Statement of workgroup roles – who is an author? Who is an editor?
  • Workgroup meeting schedule
  • Description of post-launch management procedures

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Requirements of a Microsite

Content Selection and Style


  • Selected or created content that addresses the top tasks of top audiences and follows writing for the web principles.

Multimedia Content

  • Multimedia use is encouraged.
  • All current graphic standards apply. Photographs should be:
    • used judiciously;
    • engaging; and
    • able to elucidate a purpose.
  • Follow the Video Standards and Guidelines.

Social Media Content

  • Social media is encouraged for use on the microsite home page.
  • Social media should be thought of strategically and holistically.
  • Existing guidance should be followed for social media development. See EPA Social Media Resources.
  • OPA / OWC needs to be involved from the beginning.
  • Create a common social media ID (for example, “usepagov”, “usepaclimatechange”) that is used across social media platforms. If you’re USEPAArsenic on Facebook, you should be USEPAArsenic on Twitter.

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Required Content Elements

  • The content elements below are required unless it doesn’t make sense to include them.
  • You are of course free to include any other appropriate content.
  • Each of the required kinds of content listed below must be linked to from the home page or must appear on the home page. Location on the home page of the links or content is flexible.

Learn about [Topic Name]

  • This is basic information about a topic.
  • It should summarize:
    • What is the issue?
    • Why should you care?
    • What is EPA doing about it? (e.g., regulations, partnerships, outreach, enforcement, research, grants)
    • What can you (as a person or as an organization) do about it?
  • “What you can do” and “What EPA is doing” content must be linked to from the home page or must appear on the home page.
  • Graphic- and multimedia-rich content is encouraged.
  • “Learn about” content should not be presented in a question-and-answer format and should not duplicate FAQ content.

Science and Technology Content

  • A page, or part of a page, that synthesizes what EPA is doing scientifically.
  • Using the phrase "science and technology" is recommended when appropriate. It's acceptable to use other phrases to describe your science and technology content.

Laws and Regulations Content

Geographical Content

  • The best geographical information should be displayed at the most local level available (like state, zip, county); it must be prominently displayed.
  • Geographical information is required if it is available.
  • Geographical information can be displayed as links off a state-by-state map or as a Google, Bing or similar map (examples: EPA's Work around the World map (see bottom of page)). Use of Region-by-Region maps is discouraged in many instances.
  • If a microsite about a particular geographic area (Puget Sound; Libby, MT; Gowanus Canal; Atlanta) exists, all geographic content should reside there. For example, information about lead in drinking water in the District of Columbia should reside in the D.C. web area rather than the lead web area or drinking water web area.
    • Exception: content currently stored in a major database (for example, a database of all National Priority List (NPL) sites) should remain in that database, and you should link to it.
  • Integrate with existing geographically-built databases
    • For geographical data, as yet not web-enabled, integrate whenever possible with existing databases like My Environment, Enviromapper  or Cleanups in My Community.
      • Consider working with the My Environment team (contact Kim Balassiano, to create queries specific to the microsite topic. For example, for the lead microsite, create a query in My Environment where the visitor can, with one click, be taken to a nationwide view of facilities that emit lead into the environment; the visitor could then zoom into his local area.
  • Geographical data and content is important.
  • Each microsite workgroup should form a small sub-group about how to present geographical information. The sub-group should determine:
    • what is wanted,
    • which raw data is available, and
    • how to display it.

Newsroom Content

  • Newsroom content is related to what EPA (and closely related organizations, if appropriate) is doing. Information that does not bear a strong nexus to EPA should not be included in your newsroom.

Frequent Questions Content

  • This is not an HTML page. It is an automated display.
  • There are three ways to show and link to a collection of pages that use the Frequent Question Content Type.
  • Use ServiceNow technology.
    • If a topic already uses ServiceNow technology (e.g. the superfund program's FAQs), continue to use it.
    • If a topic does not use ServiceNow technology, then FAQs should be incorporated into the public access FAQs database.
      • Search and review any existing questions related to your topic
  • Contact Michael Hessling to add new frequent questions for your topic to the system.

Contact Us Links

  • Contact us links (top and bottom). These links go to a page with a contact form.
  • OPA/OWC requires that the EIC or a designee respond within one business day of receiving questions. At a minimum, acknowledge that the question has been received and give an estimate of when we will provide an answer.  Learn more:  Handling the Emails You Receive through Contact Us Pages

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Content that Should Not be Included in a Microsite

  • Spanish Content: All Spanish language content will go into the Espanol microsite. Contact Lina Younes to get content added to that microsite.
  • QuickFinder: There will no longer be a Quickfinder on the home page. The homepage itself should be a “Quickfinder” – all top links should be available on it.
  • Top Tasks Box: Do not list top tasks in a top right-side box on the home page. The important tasks for the identified audiences will be reachable via links in the main body of the home page.

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Look and Feel / Navigation

Home Pages

  • Templates: Home pages’ look and feel will be selected from basic layouts (one-, two- and four column) available in the WebCMS.
  • Banners:
    • Should relate to the topic.
    • Should be 731 px wide x 350 px high.
    • Use only GIF (.gif), JPEG (.jpg, .jpeg), or PNG (.png) formats.
    • File sizes should be kept below 75K to minimize download times.
    • Must include text that explains the relationship between what is shown in the banner, and the microsite topic.
    • Rotating banners are permitted but note that news-related banners are difficult to maintain.
  • Home page content area:
    • The content below the banners should not be displayed in the same way content on a resource directory hub page is displayed. Do not make your home page look like a resource directory with a banner on top of it.
    • Generally, links in the content area on the home page should go to other information in the same microsite, rather than to other EPA sites or to external content. External links and links to other EPA sites should be displayed in right-side boxes or on internal pages.
    • If you have multimedia and social media outreach tools, display them on the home page.
    • Dropdown menus in the content area should be limited. The global navigation on the top of each page will be in dropdowns, so additional dropdowns may be overwhelming for visitors.

Pages Other Than the Home Page (Basic Pages)

  • Use the basic page template in the WebCMS.
  • Left sidebars: There is a left sidebar.
    • It must be the same on all pages of the microsite.
    • All linked text in the sidebar must point to other pages in the same microsite. There are two exceptions:
      • A link to a parent/umbrella site may be included. For example, a site on Pesticides Registration can include a link to Pesticides. Links to a parent/umbrella site should be the top link in the left sidebar.
      • A link with the link text “Frequent Questions” can go to an appropriate place in the Frequent Questions Database.
    • Left sidebars should include the following links, unless one or more of these types of content is not appropriate for the identified top audiences:
      • Learn about [Topic Name]
      • Science and Technology
      • Laws and Regulations
      • Frequent Questions
      • What EPA is Doing
      • What You Can Do
    • The sidebar should not contain
      • Newsroom
      • Recent Additions
      • Contact Us, or a term that could be confused with a link to the Contact Us page, like "Contacts"
    • Navigation:
      • Navigation menus: Do not use navigation menus other than the left sidebar. Do not use right-side boxes for navigation menus.
      • In-line links: Limit inline links (i.e., links in the middle of a paragraph). Most links should be below or to the right of the related content so that:
        • You can provide your viewers with more context.
        • Viewers and screen readers can scan linked content more easily.

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  • If the microsite subject is primarily within the purview of one AAship or Region, then the Web Content Coordinator and Communications Director or Public Affairs Director for that AAship or Region should review.
  • Once that review is complete, the OMS reviews to ensure the appropriateness of metadata and to ensure that the templates are being used correctly.
  • The OneEPA Web Executive Editor-in-Chief for the site reviews to ensure that the site
    • follows the requirements set forth in this document, and
    • meets the needs of the identified top audiences.

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