Follow the Money

New York Campaign Finance Board


One of the New York Campaign Finance Board’s primary jobs is to provide disclosure and transparency of financial data related to campaign contribution and spending. To facilitate this initiative the CFB created an online tool called “Searchable Database.” The application was designed to be used by the public to gain insights on campaigns running for public office.


After being in service for many years, the application was starting to become obsolete. The user experience of the application was no longer on par with the latest search experiences. The development platform that the application was built on was outdated and costly to maintain. Also, the front-end framework was also outdated. These factors led to the support of the business case.

UX Strategy
User Research
Visual Design

Business Goals

  • Increased usability

  • Enhanced User Experience

  • Modernization of UI Frameworks

  • Increased usage of “Advanced” search queries

  • Comply with new campaign finance regulations

  • Increased social media engagement


How do we completely re-think and re-design the search experience for campaign finance data?

UX Process

To help all stakeholders quickly gain a perspective off the scale of the current system and what screenwould be need to be designed in the future, site maps were made illustrating both the current andfuture information architecture.

Questions that Needed Answered

One of the largest challenges of the project was learning about the datasets associated with campaign finance and how people used the data. This created a handful of questions that needed answered.

  1. Who were the typical users?
  2. How did users feel about the existing application?
  3. What were the user’s goals in using the application? What insights were they looking for?
  4. How did users navigate the datasets? Which datasets were the most popular?
  5. Determining what the best interface design would provide the best means for users to search, filter, and navigate the data.
  6. Obtaining a deep understanding of the meaning and significance of the data.

Expert Review

Performing an expert review was another task that was performed prior to research and design. An expert review involves having a qualified UX specialist analyze and inspect the design for usability issues, strengths, and opportunities.

Conducting the review also provided an excellent opportunity to have pre-user research questions answered, which would help better tailor the interview guides.

Top UX Issues from Expert Inspection:

  1. The advanced search interface used complicated tree structure filters that couldn’t be dynamically selected.
  2. Many of the applications most powerful data sets were hidden behind the “Advanced Search” section.
  3. Search fields were not utilizing “auto query” or instant search
  4. If users used a “filtered” advanced search and wanted to change the search criteria they had to use the back button to make new selections.
  5. The branding of the application was not aligned with the agency’s branding system.


To facilitate the validation of the business and user requirements, abstract mockups called “wireframes”were created for stakeholder to review and suggest modifications

Search Interface

Visual Design

Visual DesignAfter the wireframes have been finalized, high fidelity visual designs can be created using a designsystem that specifies user interface elements such as colors, spacing, typography and more.