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Federal Budget Infographics: Interesting Subject, Disappointing Design

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CBO's infographics

Two days ago the Congressional Budget Office released some new infographics about the Federal Budget in an attempt to show where revenues come from and where they are spent. Their undertaking, although valiant, falls a little flat. Sadly, many companies reach for the magical infographic but rarely are they implemented well, which many times just adds more confusion to the subject presented. Where these infographics go wrong is in their non-use of common graphics to represent the information more clearly and their lack of common design practices.

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Let the Redesigning Continue

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heat map

As some of you might have seen we're undergoing a major redesign here at the Sunlight Foundation. We started off with the building blocks, a new logo and mood board, to lay out the concept of our new look. Now, with last year's projects behind us, we're ready to share the wireframes and comps for the new site.

Before beginning a project as big as this redesign we wanted to make sure we had some evidence to back up our suspicions regarding the current Sunlight site. Our first step was to install heat map software to get a sense of where users were clicking the most and how they were navigating. As you can see from the darker-colored image, users are clicking most on certain navigation items and projects but not so much on the blog content that lives on the homepage. The rainbow colored image is what's called a scroll map, it shows how much of a particular page a user views before navigating away from it. The white color is what is viewed the most and then it goes down from yellow, orange, red, green and finally blue indicates the fewest views. For us, this shows that as soon as users hit that blog content they start navigating away from this page.

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Redesigning Sunlight Foundation

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new sunlight foundation logo

Around this time last year, after taking over the look and feel of the Foundation instead of just the Labs, I decided to do a small refresh of the main Foundation site. The goal of this refresh was to make sure we were displaying our content in a consistent way and to make the front-end code not only cleaner but updated to use HTML5. Since that time I've settled into the position of Creative Director, we've built a small but great design team, and we've been able to start building interest around the Foundation to do a greater redesign of our brand and other main sites. The time has finally come...

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CFPB Releases Their Redesigned Mortgage Forms

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one of CFPB's proposed form one of CFPB's proposed forms

Find loan forms confusing? Wish there was a team out there that was working to make them easier for you? Well, you're in luck! The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has set out to redesign mortgage disclosure forms, making them easier for citizens to understand the loans they're accepting when purchasing a home. The CFPB team should be commended for making their design process transparent and involving the public as much as possible. The more importance that is placed on design, the more informed citizens will be — hopefully this will lead to a stronger mortgage lending system.

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FCC Finds Web Modernity

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Image of new FCC beta site

In August of 2009 we over at Sunlight started the challenging task of rethinking FCC.gov as part of our Redesigning the Government series. We made mock-ups, gave suggestions and since that time we've been fortunate enough to have had a number of back and forth conversations with the people over at the FCC. We've talked about the problems with their current site, the challenges and possible solutions. Since that time the team put in charge of rebuilding the site at the FCC has made great leaps. They started by launching reboot, which served as a good brochure site while the team tackled the more difficult content. This last November they pushed out some decent wireframes and Tuesday they excitingly released beta.fcc.gov. Through this whole process they've been incredibly transparent, and have consistently asked for feedback from the public, which should be applauded.

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Refreshing SunlightFoundation.com

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At the end of September I was pleased to step into the larger role of Creative Director. Working with all of the different departments that make up Sunlight, instead of just one, was a big and interesting step. It involved a lot more work, but the most challenging part was starting to consider how our products, produced for all of our different departments, worked together. Looking at everything we've produced over the last 4+ years was overwhelming, so I set out to evaluate and make changes to at least SunlightFoundation.com by the end of the year.

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New Wireframes from the FCC

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FCC search page wireframe

As some of you might recall, we took a stab at redesigning the FCC site a little over a year ago. Since then the FCC has been reconsidering their online presence. A few days ago they released some interesting wireframes of a reimagined FCC.gov site. Looking through those wireframes, it seems like quite a good attempt at organizing their content and really trying and make it more understandable to the general public.

There are a few small things here and there that I can nitpick. For example on the "Search Results" wireframe it would be nice to have a title at the top to say what the user had just searched for. I'm also a bit perplexed as to why on a search results page there would be a section for videos that breaks up the main results. If they want to have results by category they should group them as such and then have links to see full results in each category. Also, please FCC, we're begging you: make things like press releases available in formats other than word and pdf.

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FCC’s Reboot

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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.

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Imagining /open

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Image of our Open Government home page

Last month President Obama unveiled his Open Government Directive to create further openness within the executive branch. This directive requires federal agencies to show how they are working toward transparency, public participation, and collaboration by requiring the addition of new web pages – "/open" pages – onto their existing sites. With the first deadline in the directive quickly approaching, we've put together our thoughts on what these pages should look like.

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