What are the needs of journalists, community organizers, and everyday Americans -- and how can the Census Bureau make its data more accessible to them?
- Arjun Bisen
- Ayush Chakravarty
- Carissa Chen
- Daniel Drabik
- Amelia Johnston
Valerie Selo, a local nonprofit grant writer, grew frustrated trying to figure out which data the U.S. Census Bureau’s website contains. Having spent hours searching fruitlessly for data about the low income population in her community, she gave up and turned to Wikipedia.
Valerie is not alone. As Harvard students working to help the U.S. Census Bureau, we interviewed over twenty people that use the Census website. Most of them were frustrated with the confusing layout of census.gov, and many were also frustrated trying to understand what data Census actually has.
The U.S. Census Bureau holds among the largest collections of information on people and businesses in the country. In addition to the Decennial population survey, the Bureau also collects hundreds of valuable demographic and economic surveys each year, all for public use. After interviewing users, we concluded that Census should:
- Make full product offerings clear and prominent.
- Create multiple paths to find information to meet the needs of different types of users.
- Find ways to get information incorporated in other websites.
We made 15 paper prototypes and 6 web prototypes to implement some of these changes. For examples, to show users what data is available, we created a prototype of the data.census.gov home page that included buttons to explore all of the topics. We are excited that our efforts might help and influence Census in its important mission to inform the American public!