A new digital experience for understanding how money is spent in federal elections
Re-designing the Federal Election Commission's website, campaign finance data tools, filing process, and helping foster user-centered processes in the agency
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is in charge of monitoring and making public how candidates and political groups raise and spend money in federal elections. The goal of our work with the FEC was to help make it easier for journalists, transparency groups, and members of the public to use their data and learn how money flows through federal campaigns.
This worked spanned several major initiatives that I worked on – two that I'll talk about here: 1. making the data easier for key user groups to understand and use, and 2. making it easier for candidates and political groups to submit the data correctly.
In total, the work helped the agency save over a million dollars a year by simplifying back-end processes and technology, made it easier to understand who was raising how much from whom in federal elections, and helped to shift the culture at the agency to one that routinely seeks to understand how users are using their products, and successfully incorporates what they learn into change.
“We didn’t know where to start, but in the end, we got so much more than a website. We had a complete culture change about how to do user-centered design and agile.”
– A product owner at FEC
As the lead experience designer I helped drive the experience design and research processes for major phases of the project, from the launch of the API through to the relaunch of the production website. This involved designing key flows and interactions, helping to create a user research process that fit with the team's agile workflow, and building the capacity of client agency to own the processes after we left.
In the second phase, I was the principal service designer for the project to understand and recommend improvements to the online filing process that political campaigns use to submit their data. Paired with another researcher and a technical lead, we conducted dozens of interviews and analyzed the back-end technical systems and processes that are, in sum, the process by which campaign finance data is taken in, scrutinized, and made public. From this we generated concrete next steps, both short term fixes and longer term actionable product ideas. To learn more, you can see our key findings or read the full report on the report website.