Revamped ReliefWeb focuses on accessibility and flexibility

Andrew Footner
ReliefWeb site shown on many different devices. © OCHA

In 2010, when work started on ReliefWeb’s last major redesign, there weren't many visitors on mobile phones. Indeed, there were fewer than 60,000 users on mobile, just over 1%. Nine years later, more than five million visitors to the site used only mobile devices, almost half the total.

To serve the growing number of mobile visitors, was launched in 2013, a stripped-down, low-bandwidth version of the site, especially valuable for use on poor internet connections, respecting the inflated cost of mobile data packages at the time.

Then came the redesign of in 2018, which adopted a sleeker and stronger look that matched other OCHA sites but kept its high levels of performance. It works better on wider screens too: now two thirds of visits to the site are from desktops.

The headline news is that now everything about ReliefWeb's main site is designed to work as well on a small screen as on a larger one.

But the changes in the redesign go much deeper, with an emphasis on accessibility in terms of device, be it a mobile phone, tablet, desktop or screen reader, as well as user, making it easier to navigate for those with restrictions of vision or movement. ReliefWeb now complies with the highest level (AAA) of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

Making adjustments for accessibility has also helped to organize the substance of the site. As a result, the content is clearer and better managed, with fewer distractions. Strict adherence to accessibility guidelines for colour contrast and font size makes the site clearer for everyone.

Like the mobile site did in 2018, the new ReliefWeb has incorporated the same main navigation elements that many other OCHA platforms have adopted in recent years. With this standard header and footer, we hope users will be able to navigate across OCHA platforms with ease, and find the products and information offered by ReliefWeb faster and more efficiently.

OCHA common design sites

One change that might leave some users puzzled is the removal of the 'facet' search in the left-hand sidebar. Whereas in the former design, visitors could filter reports, jobs and training either through the facets or the search box, user research suggests that having only one method is less confusing. All the filtering that was possible in the previous version can still be done. The help page for search has tips on using the filters.

ReliefWeb new search

Eliminating the facets and other unused features has a big effect on performance. ReliefWeb's audience is based all around the world, with very widely varying levels of internet infrastructure. For many, heavy and slow-to-load pages would be another barrier to access.

ReliefWeb has come a long way since 1996, but remains focused on its core mission: Informing humanitarians worldwide. This redesign reinforces the emphasis on streamlined delivery of reliable up-to-date humanitarian information and clear access to its valuable archive.

In line with this, we would like to highlight two significant additions to the site, formerly only available on the mobile version, which give more insight into countries with ongoing humanitarian situations. Curated sets of Crises Key Figures, bring an overview of the scale of the issues and the humanitarian response, and highlights from the Digital Situation Reports show the latest updates from OCHA information officers around the world.

ReliefWeb Key Figures

There are more changes to come, so please let us know if you have any feedback. The goal is to make ReliefWeb as easy to use as possible, so we're particularly interested to hear of any features that don't work as you'd expect, as well as any suggestions for improvements.