June 8, 2009

Regulations.gov redesigns the right way

It is always encouraging when a government website "gets it." Consider the little-known Regulations.gov.

The site, which launched in 2003, was intended to engage the public in policymaking by allowing citizens to submit comments on proposed rules published in the Federal Register. But many users find the site confusing. So, Regulations.gov on May 21 debuted a video of a proposed upgrade aimed at simplifying navigation and making interaction easier, and has taken the extra step of allowing the public to post online reviews of the new features for the next two months.

What are some of the things Regulations.gov is doing right? One is that the upgrades to the site are small and concrete instead of free flowing and direction-less:

"They're doing it the right way. Design-by-democracy doesn't work nearly as well as giving people one or two or three straw men that they can react to."

Scott Burns, who is the chief executive officer and co-founder of GovDelivery, also noticed how site moderators are taking an active role in the group discussion.

"You can tell the Regulations.gov people are reading the site and taking feedback right away," instead of waiting until the deadline, Burns said.

We congratulate and thank Regulations.gov for doing their website redesign right. They seem to know what is needed to successfully implement a site-wide redesign and are working towards it. Once the redesign is complete, we'll visit them again and let you know how they did.