A couple of months ago, as part of our Redesigning the Government series, we took a stab at redesigning and rethinking the FCC website, which resulted in some good discussion between our organizations. Yesterday the FCC released their long awaited Reboot site, which by their definition is an attempt to be “your portal to take part in improving citizen interactions with the Federal Communications Commission”. The questions we’ve been asking ourselves while evaluating their new site are: what exactly does the above statement mean, what have they done well, and what are the things we think they still need to consider while moving forward.
What They’ve Done Well
FCC has certainly done a great job with the overall design of it’s new site. Reboot is clean, well organized and easy to dig into. They seem to be very serious about engaging with the public, which is a nice change of pace. By having their blog, upcoming events, and FCC initiatives front and center, will be a great way to inform users what the FCC is doing and where they might be headed. They have also leveraged UserVoice, which is a customer feedback platform, to do the bulk of the work for them, which is a good call as opposed to developing that functionality themselves.
Things to Think About
Although this is a good first attempt at working with the public to make their site more usable, I hope that they feel as if they still have a long way to go. After talking with the FCC, we came away thinking that the reboot site would be a design and user experience testbed, a place where they could experiment with their content and then see how users responded to it. The site they launched yesterday has one page dedicated to the redesign of the FCC site. On that page they’re using the wisdom of crowds to answer some of their redesign questions, which is admirable, but they haven’t quite figured out how best to execute. Derek Powazek, who wrote Design for Community: The Art of Connecting Real People in Virtual Places, says that “the simplicity of the individual task is also important. Systems based on the Wisdom of Crowds can tackle surprisingly complicated projects, but each project must first be broken down to its simplest possible components.” The FCC is asking their users big questions and hoping for gold, when they should be making those big decisions themselves and leveraging the community to help fill in the details.
Our overall hope is that the FCC uses this reboot site as a springboard toward more public engagement especially during it’s redesign process. An interesting example of Design by Community that the FCC can look towards is Mark Boulton’s work on Drupal.org. Through this process Mark was able to have his talented designers make the hard decisions and then ask the easier question of “how did we do?”, instead of “what should we do?”. The community is good at reacting to decisions to inform refinements and I believe that is what made his project a success. This is certainly a challenge for the FCC and we’re excited to see how they move forward.