When New Media Specialist Gray Brooks arrived at the Federal Communications Commission in 2009, the flagship website featured about 200 links on its home page, and two clicks away there were another 40,000 options.
FCC.gov hadn’t been fundamentally redesigned in eight years. When officials wanted to add content, they’d essentially build out, Brooks says, adding subpages or making the home page longer. At one point in 2007, the home page’s right-hand section included links to seven FCC bureaus, 11 offices, 11 advisory committees and all five agency commissioners, with no drop-down menus. “There were just too many barnacles growing on the ship,” he says.
Three years later, Brooks and the new media team have drastically simplified the home page and pulled most other content into a handful of functional categories, such as broadband and spectrum, that can be scaled up or down as agency priorities change.
The team also put much of the site’s content on application programming interfaces so it can be automatically streamed onto other sites. In December 2011, they launched My.FCC.gov in beta, which lets frequent visitors personalize the home page. The site also includes seven pre-organized dashboards that aggregate press releases, reports and proposed regulations relating to particular industries such as wireless and broadcast.
Brooks is among about three dozen young new media specialists helping agencies across government communicate better through sleeker websites, Tumblr blogs and mobile apps. “You ask yourself what is the agency trying to do and how can we help. We look at all the existing workflows and ask, ‘How can new media improve these?’ ” he says.