Discoverable databases: Is your site *really* user-friendly?


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Lightning Talk from IRE Conference in 2010 (Las Vegas, Nevada). Looking back on some lessons I learned as an intern, and some thoughts about how we create data applications.

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Discoverable databases: Is your site *really* user-friendly?

  1. 1. “ Discoverable” databases: Is your data site truly user-friendly? or Lessons learned as a new journo-dev Michelle Minkoff, Los Angeles Times, IRE 2010
  2. 2. I’ve been thinking… <ul><li>Why data apps are essential </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Tell thousands or millions of stories where we once told one </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Get more of our work out there </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Let the user find their story </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Design of db pres informs reporting + editing </li></ul><ul><li>Then what? </li></ul>
  3. 3. Bookmarkable records <ul><li>People want to share (make discoveries) </li></ul><ul><li>People want to explore deeper </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What user knows > what you think they know </li></ul></ul><ul><li>How to remember what’s relevant to them </li></ul><ul><li>Same problem as bookmarking part of graphic-based interactive </li></ul>
  4. 4. So, how do I make it better? <ul><li>Geeky side </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Record detail pg. via Web framework </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Search-friendly (guessable) URLS </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Make query string accessible </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Query string = where search is stored </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Get vs. post </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Get – query explicitly defined in URL, > accessible, < secure </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Post – query stored “behind the scenes,” < accessible, > secure </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Security <ul><li>Get is better for accessibility </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Any errors need to be accounted for in search string </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>People could type anything up there – what will your site do? </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Make navigation simple <ul><li>Always be able to get back to main page </li></ul><ul><li>Remind user what they searched for </li></ul><ul><li>Create list of similar records </li></ul><ul><li>Direct user to what might be most newsworthy in a general sense </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Gives ideas of how they can explore </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Give context <ul><li>Why should I care? </li></ul><ul><li>How does this record compare to all of the others? </li></ul><ul><li>Incorporate other methods of storytelling besides data </li></ul><ul><li>Prepare reporting as if it could be published </li></ul>
  8. 8. Link out in simple dbs <ul><li>If posting a list online, allow people to go deeper </li></ul><ul><li>Link to topic pages </li></ul><ul><li>Might be easy to include custom url in search </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Caution: Would need to adjust for not displaying links that don’t exist </li></ul>
  9. 9. Link back (deeply) to source <ul><li>Attribute sources w/breadcrumbs others can find their way back to </li></ul><ul><li>Ex: CA Secretary of State - </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t be a search engine </li></ul><ul><li>If you can google it, so can your reader </li></ul>
  10. 10. Encourage comments <ul><li>Comments get a bad rap </li></ul><ul><li>Maybe key is specificity </li></ul><ul><li>User knowledge is data point that can expand your database </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Miami Herald Mariel database </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>LA Times “California’s War Dead) </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Data tells a story <ul><li>Give data room to create conversation </li></ul><ul><li>What would someone completely concerned with that area want to know? </li></ul><ul><li>Sky’s the limit </li></ul><ul><li>It’s not a question of what’s possible, but what helps the user most, and what time and resources we have available </li></ul>
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