Project Description

Started:
June 2016  |  8 months duration
Tools:
Excel, R, Illustrator, Sketch, Tableau
Reason:
Graduation Project. Interested in having hands-on experience working with live data.
Data:
A sample dataset which was analysed by me in multiple ways.
Organisation:
Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability, New Delhi

About the project

The aim of the project was to develop a comprehensive and user-Friendly Open Data Portal with a story generator tool on Budgets in India. This tool intends to ‘educate’ the user into developing insights from available budget datasets and aid them in answering a powerful question:

How does the government utilise our money?

Organisation Details

Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability, New Delhi (CBGA)

This is an independent non-profit organisation enhancing transparency and accountability in governance through rigorous analysis of policies and budgets, and fostering people's participation in public policy processes by demystifying them.

Project background

Why is there a need for this project?

Public access to data on government budgets in India is constrained at present in a number of ways. Citizens’ access to budget data diminishes drastically as we go deeper from the level of the Union Government to the subnational level. This gap has significantly constrained public engagement in budget processes at the grassroots level. Also, the format of the documents is varied and not machine readable.

Whom does this project target?

This project targets people who are affected by the budget in some way or the other. These include Budget Researchers, Policy Makers, Policy Analysts, Journalists, government officials and of course, the common man who is a budget enthusiast.

How is it going to help these people?

Providing information through the Open Budget Data Portal can boost significantly the engagement of common citizens in budget processes. It would help in augmenting the use of appropriate budget data by researchers, policy analysts and journalists, which in turn could generate a lot of useful inputs for policy and budget formulation in the country at different levels hence strengthening country's public information.

Research Areas

These are the key areas which were researched before entering the problem arena.

Understanding the budget basic and the whole ecosystem

Exploring multiple styles of analysis to make it easier to consume by the users

Understanding the Budget

Documents and terminologies

Knowing more about the machine readable data and how it can be used in this area

Process followed

This project was first of its kind to be dealing with non-public budget data. The process started by keeping the mandatory government laws and restrictions in mind. For building the intuitive user interface and experience of Budget portal, this iterative process was followed:

This phase contains literature reviews and user interviews

Identify patterns in datasets, user behaviour and their pain points

Brainstorming ideas with the team keeping the needs and desires of the people in mind

Quickly build a simple prototype of the idea with developers and test it with users

Get the idea out to the world

Use the feedback to fuel the changes in the designs and repeat the process

To know if the solution is on target, test it with the people who are the end users of the tool

                     In a world governed by data, in knowledge economies where ideas are currency, visualisation has emerged as a shared language. Charts, maps, graphs, diagrams - even animated GIFs and emojis - all transcend text, spoken language and cultures to help people understand one another and connect.   -   Scott Berinato

Inspired by the quote above, I proposed a revised framework of repeatable process for visual thinking:

Goal of this visual thinking process

To augment the trust of the user with the visual aid and thereby move the analysis forward in an intelligent manner

 Understanding

the problem

We conducted interviews of users who were mostly researchers or analysts from CBGA. Existing visualisations on budget and tools were researched upon. Few of the researchers who were interviewed:

Creating ideas

While brainstorming, following questions about nature and purpose of this process were considered:

 

 

Who will

see this?

What do

they want?

What idea do

I want to convey?

What could

be shown?

How could 

it be shown?

Is it conceptual

or data-driven?

Am I declaring something or exploring something?

Refining ideas

The user feedback for the rough prototype of the tool was measured based on the metrics of effectiveness and ease to understand. From the surveys, the three keywords stood out from the analysis:

Structure and hierarchy, focus on design clarity and simplicity

We had to go back to the Observations and Ideation mode where the project of creating story generator tool was divided into four phases and refined to impress and persuade the users.

Presenting and practicing

We added delightful interactions and animation to the tool and the portal to create captivating visual storytelling. This attempt was taken so that users can create a new understanding of the data, change minds and affect policy change. We are in the process of continuous iteration.

The beta version of the Open Budgets data portal is launched and it can be found here. The alpha version of the Story Generator tool can be found here.

Visual Exploration

These are some of the visual explorations of elements from the portal. Explorations were done in terms of colours, layout and style of illustrations while considering the governmental constraints.

The complete repository of the explorations of the designs can be found on GitHub.

Multiple colours   |   Different elements specific to sector

Monochromatic colours   |   Different elements specific to sector

Dual colours   |   Single elements specific to sector

Dual colours   |   Single elements specific to sector

Final Selection

Role as Designer

The project is a part of the open data initiative. Being the only designer in the organization, I had to play multiple roles of a designer, researcher, and strategist. Because of the openness of the project, I could collaborate with the external designer communities.

 

My responsibilities included:

  • Understanding the whole ecosystem

  • To come up with design goals for each phase of the project.

  • Empathize with the user needs and goals

  • Conduct user interviews and take feedback

  • Ideate and re-iterate on designs

  • Maintaining repository of works for external designers to contribute and collaborate

  • Work closely with various teams stationed at multiple locations.

Various media coverages of the project in:

Note: This is an overview of the process followed and sample explorations in the designing of the project. But I would love to discuss more in-person on the various research insights, user interview, analysis, feedback, detailed observations and design iteration process.

Thank you