The COVID Tracking Project began life in March as a Google Sheet hooked up to a domain name, then a very ugly, simple website with a big button labeled “Get the data” at the top. The site has changed several times since in response to the amount and quality of the data that’s available, and also the people who are using it. Today, we’re launching homepage refinements that reflect the evolution of our project and our audience over time.
As we head into the end of 2020, we know that the people looking for our data — and the ways they find it — are different than they were when we launched the project: More than 40% of our users are people who have been to our site before. Our previous homepage was tuned primarily for new users who were unfamiliar with the project. We’re still welcoming many new users, but if you’re already familiar with our site, the new homepage should help you get to our most popular features more quickly.
At the end of October, Tom Subak, a consulting and startup veteran, began volunteering with the project to help with “whatever you need most.” Within weeks, Tom brought not only his own expertise but the resources of several external design firms onboard, giving us the benefit of fresh points of view, and input from teams of domain experts, and we had the people-power we needed to begin a long-postponed redesign.
With the team, we worked out these goals:
Make our data more visible
Reduce the time it takes to get to data
Elevate the analysis and data summaries on our blog
Some of what you’ll see in the updated design:
Data visualizations are now prominent on our homepage. These will change over time, based on the most important trends emerging in the data.
We’re making it easier to find more analysis and documentation that helps explain the sources and meaning of the data. You’ll see more links to relevant posts within the context of what you’re looking at.
Our datasets on nursing home and other long-term-care facilities data and on race and ethnicity in COVID-19 data now get higher billing. These datasets are crucial to understanding the full impact of the pandemic in the United States
Our data API now has a dedicated place on the homepage.
Our homepage redesign is the most visible of our recent site changes, and we have many more in the works. Redesigns are always underway here, and our most recent ones have included more features, richer interfaces, and new data:
In August we brought more context to every state data page with a card interface.This grouped information about testing, cases, hospitalizations, and outcomes into one clear place.
In November, we turned our charts page into a home for a gallery of interactive tools to allow easy on-site data exploration.
After the Department of Health and Human Services began publishing facility-level hospitalization data in December, we incorporated that data in every state data page. (We also explored how to use that dataset.)
In January, we’ll pick back up with more changes to the site structure and navigation and deeper engagement with federal COVID-19 datasets
We could not have undertaken this work without an exceptional group of people. Our utmost gratitude goes to Tom Subak for assembling and orchestrating the team; Vijita Kumar and Chris Bubser for project management; Lee Goldberg and Faith Zaki of Happy Cog for refining our search visibility strategy; and Jess Ladd, Joel Daly, and Larry Eason for design and information architecture consulting. Scott Watts and the Tank Design team—Sam Paulsen, Geoff Donegan, Kate D’Anna and Katie Cohen— provided thoughtful visual designs. We’re also permanently grateful to the past and present volunteers and project staff dedicated to daily maintenance and iterative improvement across all our work on the site, without which we would still be a single spreadsheet.
More “Website and API” posts
In our fifth month of compiling COVID-19 data from 56 US states and territories, we have redesigned the data displays and annotations on our website to reveal more of the data each state and territory publishes and sharpen the contextual information that runs alongside it.
States provide COVID-19 data in a variety of sources and formats. To ensure our data is as accurate and consistent as possible, we spend a lot of time looking at these sources to make sure that we’re capturing the most data possible for each state, while maintaining high standards of data quality and integrity. Today, we’re publicly releasing a detailed set of notes on the sources of all our data points.
Our volunteer-powered work depends on the contributions of hundreds of individuals, but it also wouldn’t be possible without the support of the tech companies that have donated their services to help us connect with each other, run a fast and stable website and API, and tell the stories emerging from the data we compile.