FCV Interactive

What can others learn from the successes and failures of the way you’ve unlocked the value of big data?: 

Focus on the story you are telling first.

The data may be big, complex, disparate and even inconsistent, and can easily overwhelm, and so focusing in on the ways the data will tell stories is the path to success.

Simple is better.

There’s a lot of focus on infographics and visualization techniques today where the real focus should be on telling a clear and truthful story with data. In our public-sector project such as our redesign for WorkBC, we’ve aggregated multitudes of different data sources and displayed them using some straightforward visualization methods to help users make career decisions that will affect their lives.

Consider accessibility and compatibility early.

There are some amazing visualization tools available today but if you need to design for the broadest of audiences – in the case of WorkBC, potentially all citizens of BC – you need to consider visually impaired or even blind users, and provide alternatives or use accessible standards. For WorkBC’s website redesign, and Labour Market Navigator, we utilized methods for presenting graphics from tabular data using client-side JavaScript so that users with screen-readers can still access the same insights as a regular user.

What were your expectations of the value hidden in your data, and how did they influence the design of your solution?: 

We knew that the BC Government is sitting on a goldmine of data, some of it open and accessible, but some of it still locked up in an impenetrable statistics website, or used to generate cryptic PDFs designed for highly specialist audiences. For our WorkBC projects, the value of this information to help real people make decisions about their future was clear, and we needed to make the data accessible first, and then bring it to life with our information design work. A traditional job bank – Monster.com for example – just cares about getting you your next job. WorkBC has a much longer term remit to ensure that BC has the workers it needs for the jobs that exist today and those that will be created in the future. That presented an incredible design opportunity to bring this broader perspective to the job search - get people thinking about their longer-term future in the province, and support them in making broader decisions with clear insights based on real data, and follow that up with all the programs and resources that are available to help.

Conversely, how did the design of your solution affect your understanding of the potential value of your data?: 

The flow of the story we wanted to tell with the data had an influence on what data we needed, and where we could extract more value. In displaying a career profile – a nurse, or carpenter, for example – we focused on the primary user needs first – salary, prospects, job competitiveness, etc. – and gradually revealed deeper and more comprehensive long term view of this career, the broader industry trends, and regional and provincial trends. This presented a very clear picture of how each career fits into the overall context of the labour market in BC today and out as far as the next 20 years. In telling the story in this way, we developed design elements that would later directly help to improve the quality of the communication of this bigger picture view in the industry and regional outlook areas.

Describe the aspects of the design of your solution that do the most to expose meaning in data that would otherwise be harder to discern.: 

The consistency in the visual elements used throughout the website aid the user in comprehending the data. We kept to a minimal amount of chart formats, limited the colour palette, and reduced non-data visual elements and clutter (or chart-junk as Edward Tufte would say). More specifically the ability to easily reveal insights on your own career, its role within your industry and the broader context within BC as a whole – all at a glance – is probably the biggest success of this project.

How might your solution be extended or adapted to address additional types of data and other questions?: 

We’re already using the same data in several different ways. Most notably, by supporting educational programs to help schoolchildren understand the future of the employment landscape in their hometown, region and across BC, and to enable them to picture their future within it, for example. The technical learnings and methods we applied on this project are being re-used across multiple projects, including techniques for parsing and displaying data using text, infographics and generated charts in a way that tells a clear story visually whilst also being fully accessible to visually impaired users.