IDEO + Sunlight Foundation
Sitegeist Mobile App
Sitegeist Mobile App
How citizens can effectively utilise ‘big data’ is a prescient question right now and this app looks to go at least some of the way to answering it. Although we couldn’t actually try the App ourselves as its currently only available in the US, it looks well executed. We hope in that the designers are aiming to making it more widely available in the near future.
Sitegeist Mobile App
Sitegeist is a mobile application that helps people learn more about their surroundings. Drawing on publicly available information, the app presents solid data in a simple at-a-glance format to help people tap into the true pulse of their location. This app is for anyone who wants to know what’s going on around them. From demographics about people and housing to popular spots or weather, Sitegeist presents localized information visually so you can fully enjoy the neighborhood. The application draws on free APIs such as the U.S. Census, Yelp! and others to showcase what's possible with access to data.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
Government data (like the U.S. Census) usually feels stale, cold, and irrelevant to an individual’s life. The design challenge was to turn public data into something meaningful, useful, and compelling for people by way of a mobile application. In short, this project had to make public data entertaining. More specifically, the solution had to: • Be a mobile application • Leverage public data • Have broad appeal to individuals • Capitalize on location-based curiosity • Play outside of politics and Congress • Require minimal back-end maintenance • Be effective on an individual scale3. The Intent: What point of view did you bring to the project, and were there additional criteria that you added to the brief?
Plenty of mobile apps had been created with the goal of sharing government information, but they typically fail because rather than catering to the wants and needs of people, they simply dump data into uninspiring formats. Instead of putting the user first, public-information apps focused on things like laws and candidates—fleeting, select data that didn’t engage anyone outside the political spectrum. This project approached the design challenge with an alternative perspective to understand people’s motivations behind using apps and the qualities that make apps successful. The approach is a departure from the data-centered development process that focuses the creation of apps around what’s possible with available data, rather than what people might actually want and need.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
The app was created in a 14-week period, in a 3-step process. Step 1: the design team spent time with 9 mobile app experts, eight app consumers, 10 coworkers, 12 rapid feedback sharers, and one unfocus group. Seven provocations, from “civic opportunities” to “joining people who care about the same things as you”, were discussed. Participants were asked to sort their personal priorities by importance and tell the team how often they acted on that priority. This led to insights, opportunity areas, and concepts. Step 2: involved giving the Sunlight Foundation four weeks to secure Federal data sets that would allow the mobile app’s development and interest people. Step 3: consisted of fully defining the mobile app, prototyping its navigation, designing its friendly, bright graphic elements, and developing its quick, interactive functionality. Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, and iOS SDK were used to develop this stage.5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural, gladdening, etc.)
The design solution makes public data interesting to mobile users by bringing it to an individual scale and connecting it with people’s current location—expanding their understanding of where they are. It takes public data about the people, housing, history, environment and things to do for any U.S. location and presents it in easy-to-view infographics. People can simply scroll and swipe their way through the categories to get a feel for an area. Everything from age distributions to political contributions and median home values is available. The design makes complex localized data easy to understand so you can fully enjoy the neighborhood. Sitegeist incorporates publicly available data from a number of sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau, InfluenceExplorer.com, the Dark Sky weather API, Yelp, and Foursquare. Sunlight will continue to add and improve on the app as more rich data becomes public. Between November 2012 and February 2013 there were over 60,000 downloads of the iOS and Android Sitegeist apps.