There has been a lot of great discussion on our blog and in our google group regarding how to redesign the FCC website as part of our redesigning the government series. But instead of moving straight into the design I thought it might be beneficial to explore how we might organize the content of the FCC site by sharing with them, and other government agencies a tool on how to think through it.
Someone on the forum asked what we've learned from the other redesigns we've done in the past. What we've learned is that each part of the government has its own reasons why they aren't successful with their websites. Sometimes budgetary issues stand in the way, or other times it relates to contractors that charge extraordinary amounts of money but still don't deliver the best product. What most of these government groups have in common is that whatever their issue is, they all seem open to an outside perspective.
Although they all have appreciated the designs we've given them, they'd also like to have tools to use so that they can apply some of these things themselves. So although we've already started talking about design and organization on the forum, I think we should take a small step back and go through a card sorting process to illustrate one such tool.
Card sorting, in case some of you aren't familiar with it, is a tool that a lot of designers/user experience folks use at the beginning of a project, particularly when the sites they're working on are particularly large, like the FCC. In a live scenario what would happen is that someone would start writing words on index cards that represent the content on the site. Once that is done you shuffle up the cards and then go around asking people to organize them for you, and once they've grouped them to give that group a logical title. Once you've done this with enough people you start seeing patterns in how people are thinking about the content.
It gives designers and user experience people a way to see how real people really think about the site in question. It's quick, it's easy and you get the information you need to develop better tactics to achieve your goals, rather than just making blind guesses.
So help us out in making the FCC even better. Websort.net has been gracious enough to let us use their online card sorting tool so that you in the community can easily let us know what you think. Clearly not all the content on the FCC site is represented there. Instead I really wanted to give them a nice first/second level or organization, and let them take over from there. Follow this link, read the instructions, and submit your thoughts.
Part of our google group? Start the discussion here.