New SEC website puts government agency into financial advice business

On the door of Mary Schapiro's office at the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C. is a sign that asks, "How does it help investors?" It's meant to remind everyone who enters the office of the chairwoman (pictured) that whatever issue they've come to discuss better be focused on investors.

But until recently, investors visiting the main website for the government agency that enforces securities laws and regulates the nation's stocks and options exchanges were met with a dizzying array of links. These links were confusing to navigate -- especially if you were looking for basic information. Even the site's design was pretty uninviting: more like circa 1998 than the pleasant, user-friendly sites we've grown accustomed to today. That's why the SEC on Thursday decided to launch, which has a distinctly different feel and focus.