How can we improve the new FCC.gov?

New site emphasizes style over substance

The new site looks very pretty, but unfortunately it appears to have been designed by graphic designers and not by anyone who actually uses the FCC's site.

Someone who actually participates in FCC proceedings wants to know what the most recent actions are that have been taken by the Commission and its Bureaus. This person also wants to know about meetings, workshops, and changes to comment deadlines. This person also wants to be able to quickly access the relevant detailed information from each bureau.

All of this important information is buried or truncated to the point of being unusable under the new site design.

Under the original site, the front page contains the complete name of each news release along with prominent links to the full version of the document in Word or PDF format. Under the new version you get a severely truncated version of the title that may not even give you the most important information (e.g., "Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Accounces Division Name..." Name what??). At least when you click on the "More from the newsroom" link you get a list with the complete names, but this information should be on the front page. Furthermore, when you do get to that page, you have to click again on the name to get to a third page that gives an unofficial HTML text version of the document with links to the official versions in PDF/Word/etc. Why are these links to the documents not prominently featured on the front page? It might be less attractive, but at least the important information is available with one click as opposed to three.

Navigating the Bureau pages are even more ridiculous. On the old (or "grown up") version of the FCC homepage, you could access the Bureaus with one click from the menu on the right, then you were taken to a page that prominently listed all the recent actions taken by the Bureau, with direct links to the documents.

Now, there is a drop down at the top that will take you to a "Bureaus and Offices" homepage. From there you can click on the Bureau you want. At the new Bureau homepage, you are greeted by an "Inside the Bureau" list of somebody's opinion of what are the most important current activities. Below that you finally get to something usable, misleadingly named "Related Information." Here we have the headlines, but these also suffer from unfortunate truncation. (e.g., "Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Announces Deadlines For Comments...") Again, this is completely unhelpful and hides the most important information from the user.

This is only a quick assessment. I'm sure that a more complete review of the websit would reveal many other places where form was so far elevated above function as to produce absurd results. Please keep in mind that people come to the FCC's site to access information about specific, often highly technical, regulatory proceedings. The overwhelming majority of the site's users will be much more interested in getting complete headlines and instant access to Bureau documents than they will be in seeing videos of bureau chiefs talking about their jobs.

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    Function Over Form shared this idea  ·   ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →

    82 comments

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      • old functionality commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        If someone has figured out an easy way to get at WCB's Internet Access Speed Reports from the new site, please tell me the steps to get there. If you know the best search terms to be successful, that would be useful, but I'd prefer to be able to call up the whole page with all of the reports. This is the final destination (from the old site): http://www.fcc.gov/wcb/iatd/comp.html

      • Anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        I have to agree with Collin and Chris. This beta is a tremendous step forward. Just because you have to click 2 or three links, as has been mentioned in previous posts, does not make it worse or a step backward. It seems to be better organized and less daunting. I would hate for the site to go back the way it was because a couple people don't like change.

      • BTT commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        From the perspective of a practicioner who uses the FCC's website on a daily basis, the new design is a real step backwards. None of the content that practicioners use is easily accessible. It will make it more difficult for me to get things done on the FCC's website. The website seems geared way too much for the general public. If anything, there should be an easy button for practicioners to click on to get to the stuff that we use. Why aren't their easy links to the Burueas and Offices on the front page, and to ECFS, EDOCs??? What about showing the FCC's recently released documents in a more conspicious place on the new website? I really hope that the new page gets a complete overhaul before it goes live. Did practicioners have any input in the redesign??

      • Anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        An important point is that entities regulated by the FCC are *compelled* by the Commission's rules to use various FCC web applications to meet their regulatory requirements.

        The fact that these users were not consulted is a prime example of the arrogance of the web 2.0 generation who seem to take take a dictatorial tack in *telling* users what they need instead of *asking* them. I suppose "cool" is enough, regardless if the application solves any real problem or meet the users' requirements.

      • Collin commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        The old site is awful for anyone not already accustomed to it. The only valid complaint in your entire multi-paragraph monstrosity is the title truncation.

      • Function Over Form commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        Chris,

        Your point is well taken: every time there is a website redesign there will be a period of adjustment. But part of my concern is that it seems that in the design process aesthetic considerations took priority over usability.

        I've read a bit about some of the back-end things the New Media team did to improve the site, and many of those sound great. I've not gotten the hang of the new search function, but I'm willing to keep giving it a shot.

        I do think that the team did not give sufficient consideration to the people who use the site every day. I understand that the hope is that the general public will get more out of the FCC's site now, and that would be great. However it's naive not to accept that the primary users of the FCC's site are the lawyers, engineers, and other representatives of regulated entities that rely upon it as a primary resource for regulatory, legal, and licensing information. Whether they like to think so or not, these people are the primary consumers of the FCC's website. Their needs should get at least some consideration.

        I tried to give some more constructive input in this post: http://fccdotgov.uservoice.com/forums/105541-a-new-fcc-gov-feedback/suggestions/1679543-official-documents-suggestions. There I discuss how the new "Official Documents" feature can be made more usable. I hope the New Media team is willing to take these suggestions and the ones I previously made about not truncating headlines/story names and making it easier to get directly to relevant information and documents into consideration. I know these aren't as easy as changing the size of the font in a menu, but I think they will make a bigger difference for user-friendliness.

      • fnord commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        Glitz is nice as long as the content is still there. But if the glitz gets in the way of accessing the content, then not so nice.

      • Chris commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        I don't understand why people assume that you must necessarily sacrifice one for the other.

      • marylago commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        I so agree. Slick, but when you have to click and then click and then maybe click again just to get to a single document, you are wasting my time. I agree with "Function over Form" too.

      • Chris commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        This is a duplicate of http://fccdotgov.uservoice.com/forums/105541-a-new-fcc-gov-feedback/suggestions/1678675-new-site-emphasizes-style-over-substance?ref=title .

        However, my response was that this is a beta, and your argument is that "site is different, can't find old things" (which happens every time facebook changes its) so there isn't a 1:1 mapping. Don't let the fact that you can't get to the old content in the same way distract from the fact that a government agency is finally using modern technology to interact with its constituency.

      • Chris commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        This is a more civil and well written version of the discussion that occurs every time FaceBook changes its layout. If your argument is that you cannot access something that you used to be able to, that's one thing, but the argument seems to be that "you changed your website, now things are in different places."

        Remember, as well, that this is still a beta design and that implies that there is no requirement to give you a 1:1 mapping of old to new as it will probably be changing rapidly.

      • anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        I've been using the FCC website daily for years and I agree completely with the comments about how hard it is to find things on this new site; function over form is right. Where is the Daily Digest? Where is EDOCS? Where is ECFS? By reading some of the posts on the comment pages I have discovered some of these answers, but I would have had to click on virtually everything on this site to find them. I also agree with the comments about the truncated postings.

        I think the problem is that the information is not organized in a way that makes intuitive sense to those of us who use it the most and are lawyers or regulatory "experts". Nothing is where I would have thought it was and the "topics" mean nothing to me. Maybe you need a home page for the general public with the "fluff" that I see here with a link that us practicioners can use to get into the meat of the website with the information we need.

        I don't have a problem with a website redesign, but I (and I suspect most other professionals who use this site all the time) do not have hours to figure it out. If it takes that long, the redesign is not functional.

      • Function Over Form commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        My point was not that the old site was perfect or that we should refuse to learn a new interface. My point was that usability has been sacrificed in the name of "cool"

        I don't think the old site is clumsy. Visually outdated, definitely. But if anything the new site is clumsier:

        (1) Headlines on the new site are truncated to the point that you don't know what the document/story is actually about
        (2) Getting to a Bureau home page takes twice as many clicks as it did before.
        (3) Getting to an actual digital copy of a document takes twice as many clicks as it did before.

      • Anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        No need to bill the time to anyone. A good employee will keep up to date with changing technologies. :) You can always browse the old site when you are ``on the clock'', then go home and learn the new website. This really doesn't seem like much of an issue to me.

        I feel that the new website is much more than just pretty. I feel that it will have a chance at exposing pieces of the government to more citizens who can find uses for the information. Many people will be intimidated by a clumsy website which looks like it's from the 90s...

      • Anonymous commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        I believe that this comment is similar to the numerous complaints that appear when Facebook changes its layout. Any unfamiliar website will seem much ****** to navigate than a familiar website initially. I would recommend trying it out to the point where you know where everything is (this may take a few weeks) and then complaining.

      • Geek commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        Agree, agree, agree. Really, who is commenting on this redesign? The folks who actually visit the site on a regular basis and use it, and see the headline to "check out our new site!" And, those folks are either telecom wonks, geeks, and wizards (or just plain weird guys wearing tin hats who cruise goverment sites searching for conspiracy).

        The FCC (and its website) was not, is not, and will never be a portal for popular public entertainment. It is a place of hardcore policy junkies whose respective interests in the law, economics, and technology coalesce at an agency that, by right, should include plastic pocket protectors as part the dress code. And dudes, I mean that all the respect I can garner and throw your way - what is done by the FCC is critical.

        But you don't wear a tux to build a skyscraper. The FCC website should hold true to its utilitarian roots.

        Save the flash

      • old functionality commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        I think that the website does some things well: The search function is much improved based on my quick test, and it is visually much more appealing. But, I do agree with the sentiment of this posting. The old site, at the moment, does one important thing much better than the new site: being able to find an order and its corresponding speeches based on approximately knowing when an item was passed and either using a Ctrl + F keyword search or visually scanning an entire year's worth of items on one page. As an attorney at the Commission, this feature of the old website gives me more confidence that any searches that I perform for a year's items are fairly exhaustive. The way the new site is set up, I am not given that confidence, though again, this seems easily correctable to me. The links that display an entire year's items should be preserved: this is also true of the bureau pages. Preservation of this advantage of the old site would go a long way to alleviate my fears with the new site.

      • William Beckwith commented  ·   ·  Flag as inappropriate

        I seriously question why we need so much front page space devoted to speeches/videos. This is probably better suited to a "meet the FCC" page. A better balance between function and aesthetics could be struck in the layout. Right now, it seems that aesthetics has been given the priority by far. And, as we all know, there is no accounting for taste. So, it is better to go with function. After all, this is a government website, not an infomercial.

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