And the nominees are… The Australian

The Australian - Your School

The Australian Online got on the Data Journalism Awards Shortlist for ‘Your School‘. ‘The government’s My School website is so complicated to understand that it is virtually useless as a tool to evaluate the performance of school. We wanted to use that data and make it as easy to understand as possible.’ An interview with The Australian journalist Jamie Ferguson.

What inspired you to make Ýour School’?
Our Education Correspondent had the initial idea. As a parent myself I took the basic concept and with the team developed it into the full tool.

Did you work by yourself or in a team?
I was the interaction designer (wireframes, IA, visual design). I worked with a developer who built it in HTML and Javascript. The Education Correspondent guided us, as did an external consultant.

How did you get a hold on the data you needed?
The government refused to provide it as part of an FOI request so we employed a third party to get the data off the myschool website.

Which tools were used?
Adobe Illustrator & Adobe Photoshop (wireframe and design stage), HTML/CSS, javascript, Highcharts library (for some of the charts), Google Maps, Excel, Mr. Data Converter (http://www.shancarter.com/data_converter/index.html)

How long did it take to make ‘Your School’?
Two weeks design, two weeks development (initial release).
One week for further improvements.

Data collection took approx. 6 weeks.

Were there any bumps in the road?
Short time frame. Data incomplete/incorrect. Processing large data set. At the last minute we found out half the data was incorrect (earlier years) so we had to launch with just the most recent NAPLAN data. Making what is very complex/nuanced data easy to understand and not misleading (not sure we’re there yet!)

Do you have a useful tip for starting data journalists?
Start with the data. Use free tools to visualise and look for trends, interesting points etc. THEN think about how to present it. Most of the time a basic chart or table can tell the story better than a complicated infographic or visualisation.

This is my favorite example: Business Insider – Here’s What The Wall Street Protesters Are So Angry About… Read more.

Most of all, work out what the story you are trying to tell is, then think about how to present the data in a way that helps tell the story in the clearest way.

Good luck :)

‘And the nominees are…’ is a serie of interviews with the journalists behind the entries at the Data Journalism Awards Shortlist. The Data Journalism Awards (DJA) competition is the first international contest recognising outstanding work in the field of data journalism worldwide. The Data Journalism Awards were organised by the Global Editors Network, in collaboration with the European Journalism Centre and supported by Google. (All interviews in this serie were conducted through e-mail.)
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