Allan Lasser

Product Designer & Web Developer

MuckRock

https://muckrock.com/

While a member of the MuckRock team from 2014 to 2016, I contributed to numerous features and improvements in the website and platform, taking those changes from early designs to final releases.

Among my work there, some of what stands out is the initial redesign I championed after joining; my invention of complex new interactive features, like a task queue to streamline the completion of routine platform administration and a site-wide event tracking and notification system; and my design for a rich search interface for MuckRock's invaluable archive of public records. In addition, I was able to contribute original research and reporting into federal government infrastructure and policy.

It's hard to point to a single project at MuckRock, since so much work on the platform was integrated and incremental. I'm proud to say that much of the site is still relying on my work to this day!

As the only full-time technical member of the team, overcoming challenges first recognizing when something wasn't going as planned and knowing what kind of help to ask for. Once in a while, the solution would mean digging deep into research and prototyping in order to discover the path forward, like when integrating Stripe Checkout into the site to support crowdfunding functionality.

I was at MuckRock right around the time React was taking off, while MuckRock was built and relied on Django template rendering. While I loved building new features in Django, it was challenging to build the kind of seamless, interactive features that web users have started to expect. I never got the chance to reimplement key functionality using progressive enhancement or with component-based rendering, or develop more asynchronous interactions—I think that to this day, the platform would stand to benefit from those technologies.

Redesign

One of my first projects upon joining the team was a redesign and reimagining of the website and brand. Within a few months, we relaunched with a flexible visual system and a fully responsive website.

When I joined the team in 2014, the site was running a lightly-customized Django template, which was intended more for publishing than for creating or browsing user-generated content. While this approach had worked well as the company established itself, its reporting, and the tools it offered, it was not well-equipped to achieve our ambitions for richer interactivity and growing a community around public records.

The main goal was to give primacy to the FOIA-filing functionality, driving new user signups and increasing utilization of the unique tools provided by the platform. We established a new system of typography and colors, a new information architecture with corresponding navigation, and introduced smoother front-end functionality with JavaScript.

After the initial launch, the next few years saw continuous iteration and refinement of our messaging, interface, and navigation. Although I left at the end of 2016, the site continues to rely upon the UI and UX foundations I helped lay.

Notifications

One of the most rewarding features I introduced to MuckRock was the system for event tracking and improved notifications.