As a non-profit legal organization, our team at Democracy Forward depends heavily on the website, Regulations.gov, to access rulemaking dockets, participate in the public process, and make docket information accessible to non-government users. It is particularly used in high-profile rulemakings with comments that may number in the thousands. However, in February 2021, GSA’s eRulemaking program launched a redesigned version of the site, which significantly undermined its functionality. The site became more difficult for public users such as our attorneys and paralegals to understand the landscape of stakeholders involved in federal regulatory efforts, their respective interests, and the basis for their support or opposition expressed in rulemaking records.
In May, we sent a letter, joined by eight other public interest organizations, to the leadership of GSA and U.S. Digital Service calling their attention to the significant deficiencies in the new website. The GSA acknowledged our concerns and invited a variety of public interest organizations to a September 2021 workshop regarding the site. In response to a Request for Information on behalf of the Federal Chief Data Officers Council, Democracy Forward also recommended additional ways to improve the functionality of Regulations.gov.
Specifically, we encourage CDOC and GSA to make public user experience research and human-centered design principles a priority in all public-facing databases. As they seek to improve federal data processes, CDOC and GSA should follow best practices for user experience research and design (much of which has been developed by the federal government’s own experts). Federal contractors should be required to incorporate best practices throughout design and implementation of federal databases.
Read the entire comment here.