Last week, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) unveiled their new website at FEC.gov. This new site is the result of a years-long collaboration with GSA’s 18F and features completely revamped tools for exploring campaign finance data.
Tackling decades of data
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulates how candidates and political groups raise and spend money in federal elections.
The FEC has published campaign finance data for decades, but their legacy website was dense and hard to use. They wanted to make it easier for journalists, transparency groups, and members of the public to use their data and learn how money flows through federal campaigns.
Start small, learn together
We started by working with the FEC to launch an API (application programming interface), which allows technical users (like journalists) to access data in a predictable way.
Next, we launched a public beta, which allowed us to get feedback from real users and build new features based on what we learned.
As our FEC partners saw the benefits of working iteratively and putting user needs first, they asked us to work alongside them to solve other problems, including:
- Creating search tools so laws, regulations, and enforcement actions are easier to find and use.
- Migrating confusing legacy content into a new structure so visitors can find and understand the information they need.
- Exploring how to update the online filing process to help political groups and candidates file the right forms.
Through all these projects, we’ve worked closely with FEC teams so they can transform their whole approach to interacting with the public online.
In the words of one product owner at the FEC: “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.”
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A key part of agile development is constantly shipping new features. With so many changes happening to the product, it can be hard to keep track of how the product is growing and improving. Release notes help keep everyone on the team in the know about what’s shipping, give a clear list of features to check, and help always frame our work in terms of the value it delivers to users.
Through analytics and moderated sessions, we can learn what user goals are and enhance the platform to help them achieve those goals. By creating universal search across legal resources, people will be able to locate information more efficiently. This tool will allow them to better understand and comply with campaign finance laws, thus helping advance the FEC's mission.