Data Storytelling

The Visual Race to the Finish

Published on Nov 9, 2016 2:00 AM

It’s a big day for America (and the world) today, as millions across the globe tuned in to the Presidential Elections. The past year and a half has been a media circus as skeletons followed closely on the heels of scandals out of the closet. Much like the race between Clinton and Trump. But I’m not here to talk about that.

Like everyone else, I followed the stories from various sources, and there’s one thing they all had in common – presenting data visually. This election was the most innovative use of Big Data, real time, multi-channel, 24-7, always on streams of conversations, insights and predictions about every tiny event happening in the campaigns. Now that’s a subject that’s close to my heart. I admit, I had my own running critique in my head as I watched on and saw bits of data being presented Live on screen. Here are some of my personal picks and what I thought of them:

CNN – A powerhouse in news, so too is their visual reporting. America is presented in a simple and friendly visual through a map. It also provided very detailed information, particularly the section on House Results. My (minor) gripes are that 1) the key race color – white font against a red background – is hard to read 2) while the interactive functions are great, it could be better if there was a bit more advanced animation; at the moment, it is quite basic.

Presentation: 4.5 / 5
Headline: 2 / 5
Interactivity: 4 / 5

New York Times – The NYT made no secret of exactly how they felt about Trump, from VP and AG counsel David McCraw’s epic response letter, to their 2-page spread of Trump’s notorious Tweets. Equally admirable is their visual coverage of the 2016 Election Polls, with great visual details on the map. However, the layout is a little cluttered and confusing; for example – placing a legion right under the map slider. I’m also not a fan of the tables. Would be a plus if they could have real-time updates during the forecast, with some animation.

Presentation: 3.5 / 5
Headline: 3 / 5
Interactivity: 3 / 5

Bloomberg – The first map I came across that doesn’t list the state name, with only 2 types of chart. Compared to the other news sites, Bloomberg lacks details and the interactivity features for the Key Races is user-unfriendly.

Presentation: 3 / 5
Headline: 2 / 5
Interactivity: 2 / 5

FOX – The news channel hasn’t been receiving much love from the public, what with their own internal scandals with seedy undertones that mirrored Trump’s, to overall poor reporting, FOX’s credibility has taken a hit. Overall, while their visuals are clear, their map (like Bloomberg’s) lacks state names. That said, I like that they show how many votes are left, and how many each candidate needs in order to win. In terms of interactivity, it’s basic, like their news anchors.

Presentation: 3.5 / 5
Headline: 2.5 / 5
Interactivity: 3.5 / 5

Fivethirtyeight – Best use of multiple visuals, from maps to bar graphs, presenting up-to-date, clear data. Almost every element is interactive – hover over or click on a section and metrics pertaining to that gets displayed. However, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing and while they win points on creativity, they got a little too creative with their charts and lacked in consistency.

Presentation: 3 / 5
Headline: 4 / 5
Interactivity: 3 / 5

RealClearPolitics – Ironically, given the name, things aren’t really clear, especially if you’re not familiar with American geography. Plus, they have that old fashioned text-heavy layout which makes an audience lose interest in the first few seconds. Why a digital publisher would continue with such a thing is a puzzle.

Presentation: 2 / 5
Headline: 2 / 5
Interactivity: 2.5 / 5

Let’s get Visual, People

It’s a reality that the human race has evolved so much that we have shorter attention spans than goldfish. Or do we? There’s a lot we can learn from the US election in the data visualisation community. The media showed us many examples of presenting complex data in simple ways, bringing insights to the masses, and helping people understand the trends, public opinion and events as they happen “live”. The media provided innovative examples of how to deliver information as bite-sized as twitter, through TV, web and mobile. Now it’s our job to take these examples of how to deliver information to our spaces, and in the way we deliver our insights to our users.

I think the “problem” isn’t the attention span – it’s the content and how it gets presented. It’s why we created Nugit, and took the number one thing that people hate reading and doing the most – reports – and automated it, and made it visual.

So if you’re out there somewhere buried under reports, give Nugit your vote. And together, we can #MakeReportsGreatAgain.


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