Chicago’s open data portal rapidly expanded when Mayor Emanuel’s administration took the reins in 2011. The data portal grew from a handful of data sets to several hundred data sets covering a range of topics. Since then, the portal has been viewed almost 40 million times and continues to grow. The data portal welcomed over 61,000 visitors last month, a 4 percent increase over the previous year. These users are have diverse backgrounds with approximately 65% of users are everyday residents, not data professionals or students. And almost a third of users are coming from mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets.
This week, the city has begun to pilot a new open data portal design. Based on the feedback from the past 5 years and looking at recent trends, the new design tackles three main goals:
- Improve searching and discovery to highlight interesting data sets and make it easier to find new ones
- A clean, modern interface that works for both desktop and mobile devices
- Connecting visitors to the Open Data Portal to other information, apps, and resources they find interesting or more useful than the raw data itself
New design and new features
A number of changes are being piloted. Most notable is the homepage where you’ll be greeted with a carousel of featured data sets, a large search box, and other relevant links. Search is key to a data portal so it is 16x larger than the current search box. The layout is also a cleaner, contemporary design that works on a desktop or mobile device. If you notice the site doesn’t work well on your device, operating system, or web browser, we strongly encourage you to reach out to us.
The search box is powered by a new search engine which will yield better, more relevant results. Like the homepage, the search results page works well on mobile devices so you can discover a useful data set regardless of your browser. The search results should be more relevant as well, which should result in less paging through results.
You can also look at a pilot of the new “data set landing pages” that display metadata about the data set. The open data team often receives questions about the definition of columns even when answers for those questions are included in the metadata. The current site, unfortunately, displays the first 20 or so rows of the data and suppresses metadata. The new landing page, however, displays the metadata, last updated data, and other information that answers many of the common questions of a data set.
The main website also contains links to relevant information. Recent posts from Digital Chicago, such as announcements of new data sets, will be readily available for users. Likewise, some users may be visiting the data portal but would rather see visualizations or user-friendly apps built on open data like OpenGrid or the city’s plow tracker. Finally, the portal includes a training video to give users an overview on how they can use the portal.*
The open data team will be at ChiHackNight this Tuesday to meet with their members to get feedback from some of the biggest power users who frequently code and create apps. This week the city will also be at Woodson Regional Library at 95th and Halsted with the Civic User Testing Group to get feedback from non-power users who often want to answer questions relevant to them. And, over the coming weeks, we seek your feedback as well.
When visiting the portal, simply click “Contact Us” and send any feedback, suggestions, or questions. Also feel free to reach out over Twitter to @ChicagoCDO.
One-stop-shop for developers
Chicago is also piloting a new developer portal. In the past 5 years, the City of Chicago and related agencies have released several new Application Programmer Interfaces (APIs) that let developers create apps based on city data. Besides the open data portal APIs, Chicago now have APIs that provide bus and train arrival times, allow you to submit 311 requests, or even report community concerns to the Chicago Police Department. The new developer portal is designed to connect you with those projects and documentation as a one-stop-shop for developers.
The developer portal also provides a blog that will replace the Open Data Portal Status Blog. Chicago started that blog to communicate technical changes and issues to the developer community. In order to provide a better one-stop-shop for users, that blog will redirect users to this new website.
The code for the new developer portal is open-source and on the city’s GitHub site. We would love to get your feedback on the issues page. This website will eventually replace the existing dev.cityofchicago.org, which was launched in 2011.
* The current tutorial is based on the old website design, but this will be updated in the future.