Want to use your user experience research, design, and prototyping skills to make the City better? Looking for ways to collaborate with more fellow civic-minded technologists? Are you in the mood lately to make a difference? Join the NYC OpenRecords UX Hackathon!

New York City’s Department of Records and Information Services’ (DORIS) OpenRecords Portal has a history of civic collaboration: it began as a hackathon project in 2015, and is built on open source code. The OpenRecords portal was also recently selected by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government as a 2017 Innovations in American Government Awards Bright Idea winner. You can view the site here: http://nyc.gov/openrecords and you can play around on the site (create users, submit inquiries, etc.) on this test site: https://ec2-54-236-55-7.compute-1.amazonaws.com/

Now, DORIS is looking for dedicated, enthusiastic UX practitioners to join together, dive into UX and civic technology, and take the user experience of the OpenRecords portal to the next level.

Who should participate?

Those who want to improve their UX research, design and prototyping skills by helping the City of New York:

  • UX and UI designers

  • Product designers

  • User researchers

  • Product people

  • Developers

  • Aspiring UX professionals

  • Any other techies who want to make an impact, meet new people, and advance their UX skills in a team environment.

Why is this important?

New York City is a nationwide leader in its commitment to open data and transparency. Ensuring equal access to government records, data and other information empowers all New Yorkers with knowledge that allows them to stay informed, as well as hold their governments accountable.

We believe that journalists, advocates, and members of the public alike should all be able to submit a request under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) quickly and painlessly. We can achieve this, with your help!

NOTE: There is a live, in-person hackathon happening in NYC on Saturday February 25th. If you are interested in attending you must register via EventBrite. You may only participate in either the in-person hackathon event or this virtual hackathon.

Identified Challenge Areas:

These are identified challenge areas for the new OpenRecords platform (link to new site is http://nyc.gov/openrecords). Prizes will be awarded according to the best solutions identified in the following challenge areas.

Challenge 1

Making a New Request

  • How might we help a user get their request to the correct agency? This will require education about other agencies and what they can provide. (Often, they default to requesting from DORIS because they cannot tell there is another agency they should be asking).
  • How might we improve the submission form and messaging while accounting for the different questions/information required by different agencies? Should users be notified that requests will be viewable by public?
  • How might we make the flow and form itself as simple and accessible as possible?

Challenge 2

User Introduction/Guidance (the emphasis is on the homepage)

  • How might we help the user determine if they should be using OpenRecords for their request or some other resource like the Open Data portal. In particular, we would like to avoid the scenario where users submit requests that a FOIL request would not, in fact, help with. (e.g. if the information they require is already in the Open Data portal, municipal archives, or public collections)
  • How might we help the user know to search and view existing records prior to submitting a new request (to ensure they don’t submit a duplicate request)?
  • How might we set expectations for what the OpenRecords tool does and how it communicates?

Challenge 3

Search, View, Track Past Requested Records

  • How might we help a user easily discover whether a similar records request has already been filled?
  • How might we help the user make sure they search and view existing records first so they do not submit a duplicate request?
  • How might we simplify the search and filtering of past records requests?
  • How might we help a user check the status of a past records request they made?


  • Participants may participate individually or in teams of up to 4 Participants.
  • Participants must be eighteen years of age or older.
  • No Participant can be a Rise New York or DORIS employee or DORIS independent contractor.
  • No Participant can be an employee or independent contractor of a DORIS vendor.
  • Participants must choose whether to participate in the virtual event or the live event; Participants may not participate in both.


The final deliverables should be submitted via a link on the DevPost submission page by 5pm EST on Saturday February 25th. 

The link should include access to a presentation outlining your research process, wireframes for your final solution and (optional but recommended) a clickable prototype of your solution.For guidance on solutions please see the list of challenge statements on the homepage.

NOTE: You must review & abide by the Rules and Participant Agreement during submission.

Hackathon Sponsors


Certificate of Recognition from the NYC Mayor's Office (8)

All winners will receive a certificate from the NYC Mayor's Office; there will be 3 winners who meet the "Challenge" criteria and 5 winners who meet each of the other criteria.

Mailed an image from the NYC Archives

The winner of the "Best Overall" category will receive this prize. If the winner can pick up the prize in NYC it will be framed; if the prize needs to be mailed it will be matted / unframed.

Devpost Achievements

Submitting to this hackathon could earn you:

How to enter

The final deliverables should be submitted via a link on the DevPost submission page by 5pm EST on Saturday February 25th. 


Lois Last

Lois Last
User Experience Design Director, NYC Gov Lab & Studio at NYC Information Technology & Telecommunications

Joel Castillo

Joel Castillo
Director of Application Development at NYC Department of Records and Information Services (DORIS)

Rebecca Tinkelman

Rebecca Tinkelman
Digital Director from the NYC Office of Digital Strategy

Kiren Gopal

Kiren Gopal
NYC General Counsel & FOIL Officer

Martin Batey

Martin Batey
Application Development at NYC Department of Records and Information Services (DORIS)

Judging Criteria

  • Meets the Challenge
    We will be awarding 1 winner for submissions in each Challenge category; you can view the challenges outlined on the homepage of DevPost: https://openrecordsuxvirtual.devpost.com/
  • Best Overall
  • Best Prototype
  • Most Innovative
  • Most Complete
  • Best Research

Questions? Email the hackathon manager

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Hackathon sponsors

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