The Federal Communications Commission held webinars over the past week to walk users through the large-scale redesign of its fcc.gov website.
The agency’s Information Technology staff said a series of one-on-one interviews, deep dives into the FCC site and intensive content sorting helped coordinate the website redesign.
What did they find? What many of us already know: The existing site lacks a clear information architecture, making content difficult or impossible to find.
Finally, somebody said it.
Ask nearly any user of the old FCC website and you’ll hear similar complaints, from clunky page elements to disorganized information.
As many regulars know, a visit to the FCC website is often for a specific purpose, not to sniff around. The new website — currently available at https://prototype.fcc.gov/ — has been designed with that in mind, particularly when it comes to differences between what consumers and broadcast practitioners are looking for.
“Our collaborative stakeholder research revealed how we could improve the website’s information architecture to make content easier to find,” said Dr. David Bray, chief information officer for the FCC, in a blog post about the upgrade. “We learned typical website users do not come to fcc.gov to browse content; they want to get the information they are looking for quickly and in as few clicks as possible.”
Come Friday, Dec. 10, users first will most likely notice a new aesthetic. The site welcomes viewers with similar shades of cerulean and aquamarine blue but in a more streamlined design: targeted white spaces, a menu bar that lists five main areas, and three main chunks of information on the home page that include “headlines,” “events” and links to access documents or file a complaint.
According the FCC, the IT department organized the site from top down, starting with a toggle navigation system that will allow visitors to browse by “category” or “bureau and office.” The team also said that the new website will have improved interoperability with tablet and mobile device browsers so that content is displayed properly depending on the device being used to view the site.
It may be a relief to regular users that they will not have to reset their bookmarked Web addresses. As one radio broadcaster said: “I have more than a dozen bookmarks to specific part of the FCC website, such as application search, TOWAIR, LPFM rules, etc. Hope that I do not have to set up from scratch.”
Systems like the much-used Electronic Comment Filing System will include an improved layout and redesigned navigation.
Another change will be the “events” section, which lists upcoming events on the main home page. A click on “past events” offers a link to the original item as well as a related video webcast, if one is available.
The FCC said the IT department will be up late on the evening of Dec. 9. The transition to the new site is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. and be wrapped up by midnight. Rarely do real-world IT transitions go smoothly; the presenters said the staff will gather feedback starting on Friday and include content updates by policy bureaus and offices. The agency will be working on those fixes as soon as the site goes up, the commission said.
All in all, the website is designed to provide better functionality, improved design and better searchability and navigability. The FCC cited “extensive user research” in making an attempt to improve the website’s information architecture to make content easier to find.