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Regulations.gov – Usability Case Study

More and more people use search as their primary means of finding what they are looking for. When users get confused by the search results, or can’t immediately find what they are looking for, they’re going to get frustrated. They may even leave the site for good. The DigitalGov User Experience Program helped test Regulations.gov on October 5, 2012, to find three high–priority, fixable problems that could make the user experience much easier and more pleasant.

Problem 1: Search Results Cluttered

Users are presented with too much highly–technical sorting information in search results, such as: IDs, agency acronyms, and other minutiae. This made it all the more difficult to know what to look for.

Solution 1: Remove Sorting Information from Search Results

The second line of search results is taken out, which gives the search results a much cleaner and less cluttered look.

Problem 2: Important Link Difficult to Find

Because of all the clutter on the page, users didn’t realize that the Docket ID link, buried with all the other search result info, is a crucial link for navigating to that page.

Solution 2: Clarify Link Language

Instead of a vague, clickable ID number, the link has been changed to a folder in a better location. Now, the users clearly know the way to the docket folder.

Problem 3: Labels Unclear

Problem 3: Labels Unclear

On the Docket Folder Summary section, users didn’t know what the “Comments Received” box was. Only when they hover over it does a pop–up appear with an explanation.

Solution 3: Add Explanation Text

The explanation is moved to immediately below the “Comments Received” number within the participation panel. The asterisk remains but the distracting hovering is gone.

By making these simple changes, the user has less difficulty interpreting search results and can more easily find the information they’re looking for. Instead of getting frustrated and leaving the site, the user now can find a quick summary of each article or choose to open the docket folder for more results.

Now that these three changes have been made by Regulations.gov, their users are able to more easily search for and locate their desired results. Make sure to follow the usability guidelines outlined at Usability.gov when designing your site’s search.

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