Federal Election Commission

Easy-to-use campaign data

Background

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.

We engaged with 18F, and it was a game-changer for us. They came in and helped the IT team and business owners get involved in the agile development process. It changed our whole methodology. - Alec Palmer, FEC’s Chief Information Officer
Approach

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.”