A search experience for the SEC

Free access to more than 21 million Securities and Exchange Commission filings

Project Year

2013-2014

Client 

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission

Role

User experience

About

All companies, foreign and domestic, are required to file registration statements, periodic reports, and other forms with the SEC. EDGAR (Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval) is the database that allows anyone to access and download this information for free.

More information

Agency CHIEF may still be working on this project, but you can access EDGAR's current state.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's mission is to promote fairness in markets, striking a balance between protecting investors and encouraging capital formation. From straightforward information about a company's quarterly earnings to juicy paper trails about your favorite tycoon's insider transactions, the EDGAR system offers a wealth of information.

Agency CHIEF was contracted to redesign the search experience for EDGAR. The client's main problem was that the search interface was unusable: it did not set the right expectations for the scope of information that users could access; and did not enable users to dig deeper into the data that they could access.

Prototyping the search interface

Working with a new team at CHIEF HQ, some of my colleagues hadn't worked with robust browser applications before. To get the right critique feedback, I turned to paper prototypes to quickly convey initial directions and work out any major, unseen dead ends together.

edgar from Dezzie on Vimeo.

edgar from Dezzie on Vimeo.

Architecting the interface

EDGAR's landing page lacked a description of what users could do with it, and instructions on how to get started. I designed a couple of onboarding experience directions for the client. Federal government clients are notorious for moving slowly. If this project continued into the next administration, I had to provide solutions that could withstand a budget cut or a campaign promise.

By telling a before and after story about a user's first-time experience with EDGAR, I was able to sell the value of an onboarding experience to the client. They were able to articulate that they were moreso afraid of a cutesy and overused style of onboarding common in mobile apps and how it would be politicized.

Landing page

Onboarding

Search results

A simpler, cleaner, search results view demonstrates information architecture decisions aimed at reducing cognitive overload.

Filtering

The UI compartmentalizes tasks in the search process to improve focus, not break it.

Facets

Users are in sleuth mode when they use Facets. Whereas Filters are used to narrow down results and cut down on noise, Facets allow users to find connections between relevant results. These are especially helpful when they are trying to find connections between companies and individuals.

Attention to detail

This is what a typical SEC filing document looks like. My design solution enables context-switching, since a user will need to look through several documents before finding what they need. Their filters and facets are not lost during this workflow.

Next steps

EDGAR's redesign was in the early stages of development in 2015, and it appears as though it is still in progress. This is why I delivered 2 directions to the client.

In government, changes in leadership, sudden budget cuts, or "optics," can drastically change projects such as these, or even bring them to a halt. This can undermine the designer's intent long after she can do anything about it. By providing a backup plan that was future friendly and less expensive, I hope the SEC reaches the goals they had for this work.