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Visualizing the skyrocketing demand for afterschool programs during COVID-19

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Visualizing the skyrocketing demand for afterschool programs during COVID-19

This article was originally published on Graphicacy's medium.com account on January 21, 2021. It is being reposted here with their permission.

The Afterschool Alliance came to Graphicacy looking to create a compelling interactive experience with freshly gathered “America After 3PM” (AA3) survey data. The data showed a high level of demand and support for afterschool programs, coupled with ongoing challenges in making these opportunities available to all the students who might greatly benefit from them.

“America After 3PM data is a wealth of information on the supply and demand for afterschool programs. What we can convey through reports, fact sheets, infographics, and even topline questionnaires only provide a slice of the data available. Thanks to the work with Graphicacy, we have been able to make available more than 6,500 data points in a thoughtful, coherent, and visually compelling manner.” — Afterschool Alliance

In a discovery process led by the Graphicacy team, we found that there were two primary user groups. The first, statewide afterschool networks and child care providers, were “power users” focused on quickly accessing specific types of information –and– seeing any differences in terms of progress over time. The second group, journalists and a more general audience, needed a high level overview of key takeaways without having to explore the whole site, along with an opportunity to dig deeper if needed. As the project stakeholders, the AA3 team also wanted to “humanize” the data in order to make sure that users didn’t miss the importance of their findings or fail to connect the numbers to the needs of actual parents and their children.

“To humanize is to make things more humane and easier for humans to relate to and appreciate.” — from Vocabulary.com

Data is a collection of values or measurements — not a story, not a map, not an insight. A data set, like the AA3 survey, may contain all kinds of information that will, when analyzed, organized and communicated in a compelling way, reveal things of great importance and emotional resonance. None of these possible outcomes are in the raw data so the task of a skilled information designer is to create, in partnership with their client, an interactive experience that will transform a collection of data points into something that will inform, educate and sometimes inspire “wise” action.

In order to meet the needs of the more general user group, and create this human connection with the data, Graphicacy designed a short, interactive opening narrative that would give users a taste of this important topic and invite them to explore further. This “scrollytelling” feature paired photos of students and short text with simple animated charts to lead readers through some of the key survey takeaways and additional context around the COVID-19 crisis.

An animated scrollytelling experience showing the key points of afterschool education over time.

So that users never felt trapped in the experience, opportunities were provided throughout to jump to a new topic in the narrative and/or move seamlessly to relevant content in the companion dashboard.

The dashboard component of the new AA3 survey data site carried through the design aesthetic and chart animations from the opener allowing users to have an integrated experience as they moved between story and data tool. Users were able to access data views at national, regional, state and special topic levels through a highly interconnected set of maps and simple graphics. Care was taken to be consistent in the use of color (themes) and few simple chart types so that users felt confident, and not overwhelmed, inside this data rich environment. Animation of the charts helped to activate the pages and maintain interest as users scrolled through fields of information.

America Afterschool ‘s America After 3PM interactive data visualization features.

At the National level, functionality was built in that allowed users to always keep an interactive, color-coded national map in view to mirror selections made in an adjacent, scrollable column of survey questions paired with graphics. This allowed a holistic, seamless visual experience for all related content. A bread crumb in the sticky navigation bar allowed an easy return to previously viewed content in the dashboard as well as one-click access to the scrollytelling opener.

Overall, the user experience (UX) and visual design approach for both the scrollytelling opener and the dashboard was tailored in response to the AA3 team’s desire for the new site to be –

  • Engaging and animated
  • Not intimidating or cluttered
  • Credible and informative
  • Hopeful but not unrealistic
  • Responsive and full browser

*****

Graphicacy partners with clients to tell engaging stories with data. Graphicacy’s team combines storytelling, thoughtful human-centered design and deep technical capabilities to build and deploy strategic, data-rich digital projects. Graphicacy’s team has created data visualizations and infographics for top-tier organizations and companies, domestically and internationally, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, the World Bank, the Center for American Progress, the Anti-Defamation League and many others.

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