Facilitator: Prasanna Lal Das March 31, 2017

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The World Bank’s goal to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity cannot be achieved without accessible, understandable, and interoperable data. Prasanna Lal Das and his team at the Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice created TCdata360 to provide just that. With almost 2,000 indicators from over 25 sources, TCdata360 allows government officials, researchers, and entrepreneurs to better understand trade and competitiveness at the global, regional and country level, and then share this information with others. Users can compare country trends, create data visualizations and maps, download raw data, print reports, share findings on social media, and more.

At the last DataStorm, Prasanna and his team brought TCdata360 to Feedback Labs to address one main question: What’s next? With over 20 attendees from around the globe (and on a DC snow day, no less!), we explored the tool’s functionalities, pinpointed target audiences, and considered use cases that will help the TCdata360 team iterate to version 2.0. The DataStorm attendees zeroed in on three primary points of exploration for the TCdata360 team:

1. Do one thing, and do it really well.
A user that lands on the TCdata360 platform can engage with it in many ways. A user could do a deep dive into data on a specific sector, or a specific country (or region of a country), or jump right into comparing any number of trends across a variety of variables. Technically, it’s a very well-functioning platform- the graphs resolve quickly and appealingly, and the user experiences almost no lag time, even when adding more data layers. But more may not be better when it comes to user experience- in fact, it could be overwhelming. Take, for example, the user experience with Apple. By developing iTunes into a familiar software that could help users transition between devices (desktop to iPod to iPhone to iPad), they helped users acclimate to more and more complex tools and devices. Apple focused on accessing music, got really really good at it, and then used it to introduced a whole host of other applications for a user to choose from. But a user could always return to the basics.

Likewise, DataStorm attendees encouraged TCdata360 to focus on one thing, and to get really good at it, before introducing or pushing additional features. Providing users with an easy on-ramp can better ensure sustained engagement with the tool.

To identify where they should focus their energies, the team can ask three key questions:
1) Which feature of TCdata360, if taken away, would cause an uproar?
2) What is one problem users can solve with this tool?
3) How can we ensure that the user gets to the answer?

2. Simplify, simplify, simplify.
In developing a data-driven tool, it is important to show users, especially less tech-savvy users, what they can do with the tool and what they can gain from it. TCdata360 currently lets users get right to the data viz, which is good! But DataStorm attendees suggest providing more in-depth video tutorials, blog posts, and use-case examples in a more upfront manner, so that users can be sure they’re using the tool correctly, the first time.

Additionally, simplifying the access to the tool could mean streamlining the content. As mentioned above, this powerful tool offers potentially too many options right off the bat. Creating a clear focal point on the website and walking users through a simplified workflow can reduce complexity as users move through the platform. Limiting the initial options or data visualizations and only revealing more upon request (as opposed to requiring the user to strip them away) can help users gain confidence as they gain familiarity with the tool. Decreasing the UX barriers and simplifying the user flow would make the tool more efficient and rewarding to use.

3. Tell crisp stories.
One of the most powerful things that the open data movement has allowed us to do is to tell more, and better, stories. Stories help convince us to do something that the data tells us is important. TCdata360 can make itself an even more valuable tool by helping distill the crisp stories of the real people behind the numbers. As TCdata360 thinks about marketing itself to a wider audience, it would be well served by prominently highlighting the humans behind the stats, as well as the case studies of the real impact that using the tool can have on the lives of people the World Bank seeks to help.

 

With great amounts of data come great amounts of responsibility. As consumers of data, we must concern ourselves with making data not only available, but also interesting and digestible. Prasanna and his team have developed a powerful tool that allows easy access to a veritable treasure trove of data. These indicators, stats, graphs and numbers are characters in a grander story. In making TCData360 more user-friendly, Prasanna and his team will help people tell it. Want to stay involved? Reach out to us at info@feedbacklabs.org if you’d like to learn more and keep up with the TCdata360 team’s progress here.



Prasanna Lal Das works on data strategy in the Trade & Competitiveness global practice at the to World Bank Group where he recently led the development of the to World Bank Group’s open trade and competitiveness data platform (http://tcdata360.worldbank.org). He is currently exploring the role of IoT to deliver government services, and the role of big data in value chains. Prior to this, Prasanna led the Bank Group’s open financial data program (finances.worldbank.org). Prasanna has also worked extensively in the private sector helping companies develop strategies to use information as a competitive business asset.

Prasanna holds a Masters degree in Modern Indian History. You can follow him on Twitter at @prasannalaldas or read his Bank blog at blogs.worldbank.org/team/prasanna-lal-das


DataStorms, a stream of our popular LabStorms, are collaborative brainstorming sessions designed to inspire open dialogue around collecting, analyzing, storing, and exchanging feedback data. Facilitators relate lessons and challenges that feedback data may bring in return for thoughtful ideas, suggestions, and informal peer-review from our community.

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