Redesigning the U.S. Natural Resources Revenue Data (NRRD) portal homepage to meet user needs

The Natural Resources Revenue Data (NRRD) portal provides open data to the public about revenue generated from extraction of natural resources on public lands and waters. Open data provides transparency into government operations, which gives the public information to back up claims made in the name of social justice. To make our data truly open and useful to the public, we’re going beyond our government mandates to open data and including our users in the design process as our site evolves.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

The Problem
In 2012, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR) was tasked with implementing the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which is an international initiative to promote transparency into the flow of money from the extraction of natural resources. In accordance with this initiative, the agency created the Natural Resources Revenue Data (NRRD) portal (https://revenuedata.doi.gov/) that provides open data to the public about revenue generated on public lands from the extraction of natural resources. It was initially designed to be an interactive version of the annual report required by the initiative and largely designed to meet the requirements for that report.

In 2017, the U.S. withdrew as an EITI implementing country, but ONRR made a commitment to continue in the spirit of the initiative. That, along with a renewed presidential mandate to employ data and improve customers’ experiences with government services, have allowed our team to rethink the site and shape it to truly meet user needs.

Goals of The Innovation

Now that our core focus has shifted from meeting specific EITI requirements to meeting the needs of the people who use our site, we have amplified our efforts to understand who uses our site and are discovering how they use the data.

We’ve discovered that our users differ most in two primary areas: how they find data on the site and how they use the data after they find it. They fall into four primary user types: Question Answerers, Agenda Supporters, Storytellers, and Domain Learners.

Once we started learning more about our site’s users, we rewrote our product vision to help guide our work:
“We are informing policy debates and raising public awareness by building the definitive source of timely and useful data about how the government manages federal energy and mineral resources, revenue, and disbursements.”

The Innovation

One implemented innovation that has come from this new focus is our new homepage. Some have argued homepages aren’t as important as they used to be. The increased use of search and social media to convey users deeper into websites is evident, but most users we talked with still use our homepage as their primary starting point and our analytics show it’s the most visited page on our site, with 22% of site sessions in 2018.

Equipped with the knowledge that our homepage was valuable to our users, we set about prototyping and testing options with users to determine how it could better serve the needs of users. In addition, we were getting requests from users who fall into our “domain learner” and “question answerer” user types asking for summarized numbers on the homepage so they wouldn’t have to dig through the Explore Data page to find them. We tested 6 options with users matching a variety of user types and narrowed them down to 2.

In the second round of testing, we included new users to make sure our additions didn’t scare away those without a basic understanding of the data. In addition, we tested with more domain learners to make sure we were meeting their needs. We learned that we needed to better explain the production, revenue, and disbursement process and landed on the best approach for the new summary information on the homepage.

We then tested 3 concepts with additional content at the top of the homepage to explain how the different pieces of data work together. We landed on one concept that worked best and also learned that general-public users are most likely to use the site to explore data related to their geographic area, so the map needed to come before the new summary information on the homepage.

These three studies led us to the design we built. It better explains the process behind the data to those who are not intimately familiar with the subject matter, while also providing high-demand, summary data to domain learners and question answerers. Based on the findings from these studies, we also plan to simplify the structure and navigation of the Explore Data page and make it easier to understand how to interpret and use the data.

Who Benefits
The American people collectively own federal lands, waters, and the minerals beneath them. Transparency about how these resources are managed is crucial to public discourse and government accountability. However, data about public resources is underutilized because it often lacks context or is presented in ways that aren't readily accessible or understandable to users. We are changing that with our focus on user-centered design.

The Future
Now that we have a commitment to designing the site using user-centered design processes, we will continue to evolve based on learnings from user research. We are also committed to sharing user-centered design practices throughout our agency and have already begun by cross-training our colleagues and providing consultations to other work groups across our organization.

Innovation Description

Innovation Development

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Year: 2017
Organisation Type: Government
Level of government: National/Federal government

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