how do you

make government data engaging

My Role
  • UX Design
  • Information Architecture
  • Wireframes and Prototypes
  • Front-end Development
Team
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In a time when government data is available but not always accessible USAFacts was created as an answer to a question:

where does our money go, as a nation?

The Ballmer Group, the philanthropic organization led by Steve and Connie Ballmer, set out to accomplish this though a data repository and powerful data visualization tool called USAFacts.org.

We set out to make sense of government spending in a non-partisan and unbiased way.

where does our money go, as a nation?

We worked with The Ballmer Group to define the vision and strategy for the beta launch of  USAFacts.  Due to time constraints a full research phase was not possible, but the design team knew research was essential for defining an audience.

We focused on 4 potential power users for USAFacts (academics, journalists, policy makers, and interested citizens), creating user personas for each. We then conducted quick, scrappy, informal research interviews with participants from ProPublica, The Associated Press, and data editors from Google.

Using their feedback we generated feature, layout, and UI concepts during an interactive workshop.


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To work through the unique taxonomy the client wanted to use to categorize the data (organized by the tenets of the Constitution), we used card sorting exercises to build sitemaps, detailed down to the specific datum for API building.

For wireframes I worked to build layouts robust enough to accommodate both visual and tabular data. Wireframes also detailed hover, click/tap, and animation states for each graph type, and explored ways to tell a story with data using a sankey diagram as the hero.

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We sought to transform dry, dense, data into an engaging and exploratory experience through the use of animation, informational tooltips, and varied visualizations. Careful consideration was also made to the types of charts used for each data type in order to not introduce bias.

One goal for the repository was to facilitate the ability for people to form their own opinions around the data. One way we designed for this was through the use of sparklines. These small but mighty visualisations allowed the user to toggle through multiple decades worth of data in a related category and compare the change over time all at once.

We sought to transform dry, dense, data into an engaging and exploratory experience through the use of animation, informational tooltips, and varied visualizations. Careful consideration was also made to the types of charts used for each data type in order to not introduce bias.

One goal for the repository was to facilitate the ability for people to form their own opinions around the data. One way we designed for this was through the use of sparklines. These small but mighty visualisations allowed the user to toggle through multiple decades worth of data in a related category and compare the change over time all at once.

Launch

The repository launched on Tax Day with an astounding 2.5 million people visiting in the first 24 hours.

While research was a largely de-prioritized on the beta launch, the next design team did get the green light to include a research phase for the next round of updates. The team also began to be more active on social media, creating bite-sized, snack-able, visualizations to go along with the numbers.

In 2020 USAFacts created the COVID-19 Impact and Recovery Hub where it tracked, collected, and normalized data on the impact of the Coronavirus in the U.S. It featured data ranging from the number of cases across states over time to the number of unemployment claims and government spending during the pandemic.

The team also launched the “Change the Story” campaign aimed at inspiring and empowering Americans thru nonpartisan facts and helping them make better informed decisions as they prepared for the 2020 elections.

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