A look at our Data Viz Guide, why we created it and how well it's working.Continue reading
As part of our effort to revitalize OpenCongress, we've committed to putting the site through a rigorous human-centered design process — so it's more effective and easier to use for everyone.Continue reading
Launched last week by Madrid based nonprofit, Civio, Quién Manda (Who Rules?) takes on the task of monitoring the goings on of Spanish public officials and influential corporate leaders. The platform has been designed to keep an eye on the unmonitored, and rarely recorded interactions that Spanish politicians are having behind closed doors, tinted car windows and somehow frequently right in front of the lens of a camera. The team at Civio has tasked themselves with tagging photos a la Facebook with as many high profile names as they can. Each individual and corporation that gets tagged receives a profile that collects all tagged photos and displays the power connections that have been identified, along with links to social media accounts and any available biographical information. The system currently has over 100 tagged photographs, identifying over 2500 relationships.Continue reading
Sunlight is very proud to share the news that the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will award us $4 million over the next three years to increase our ability to make more government data more accessible, especially on the state and local level. With this new support, we will focus more on making more government data accessible to more and more people -- not just journalists and experts. This new funding from the Knight Foundation will undoubtedly go a long way toward giving us more resources to make online government transparency a reality, enabling us to continue to build tools to bring that data to the public and share with the growing open government community lessons learned from our work.Continue reading
One of the things I love about TransparencyCamp is that it is a large essentially unscheduled event. You can't plan what's going to happen when you have over 500 people and just a loose schedule of events over 2 days. The branding has to be loud enough to guide people though the unconference format in an unfamiliar space and convey a sense of excitement and energy. The implementation has to be flexible and allow for things to change, like a picnic session in the park, or food trucks for lunch parking in unexpected locations.Continue reading
Over the past few months you may have noticed the new Sunlight logo or caught a glimpse of the redesigns... View ArticleContinue reading
Back in early April we released Upwardly Mobile, a web and mobile tool that helps users compare their current living situation to other metro areas in the U.S.. This was the second in a series of apps that we built to help illustrate how the practical application of government data can inform citizens. After completing the first app with JQuery mobile we felt it was time for a different approach. This project was our first, and my first, shot at building a responsive website.
The first app we built, Sunlight Health, used jQuery mobile which was endlessly frustrating to work with. The versions of JQM changed weekly, and nothing was documented. I'm relatively new to web design, so each project I work on has some new challenge for me, but learning JQM seemed unnecessarily hard. I only really understood the structure of their theming system by the time we finished the project, far too late to actually take advantage of it. Consequently, they now have a something called a themeroller that helps you customize the basic elements.
So to find a better solution for the second app we looked toward building a responsive website. A responsive website uses media queries to determine the dimensions of the display you're viewing the site from and changes the CSS accordingly. The most obvious differences can be seen between traditional browsers and mobile devices, where information that's displayed horizontally often gets restructured to take advantage of the tall and narrow display of mobile devices. This choice seemed more reasonable from a production standpoint because we were just using HTML and CSS instead of a quirky application but it would also allow us to make the tool accessible in traditional browser windows as well as mobile platforms.
Not knowing where exactly to start here are the tools I turned to:
For inspiration: http://mediaqueri.es
A Book Apart's Responsive Web Design by Ethan Marcotte. This book was a helpful way to think through the process of building out the structure, and the tips on how to get your math right were great. Some of it did seem like overkill, specifically the math for vertical padding and margins, but overall it was a good resource to have by my side for my first responsive site.
For the most part, building a responsive site was pretty easy. It made sense. Of course when dealing with something that's new there are always a few hiccups. Here are a few things I will keep in mind while building my next responsive site:
I try to block out the part of my mind that thinks in terms of sections or divs when I'm designing so I don't end up with something that looks like it's been restricted to a bunch of boxes. The problem with designing without restrictions on a responsive site is that having a series of images floating across the screen severely limits the ease with which the site resizes. Text can flow easily from line to line, but the fixed sizes of my images meant that I had to become hyper attentive to widths, and in some cases build new images just to take care of an image that was 5px too big for the smallest dimension that I wanted it to fill. Next time I'll keep the break widths of my media queries in mind when working on the design.
Borders are not taken into account in the width of an object normally. In the case of the tabs on the Upwardly Mobile detail pages, each tab <li> was specified as 25% of the <ul>. When adding a border to the left and right sides to created the inset tab effect, it would throw off the 100% count, causing the last tab to jump down to the next line. Initially, I worked around this by using images for the borders, but I was using the CSS3 multiple images feature. This was breaking in a few browsers, so I ended up reexamining the problem and discovered the magic of the box-sizing property. So simple. So effective. I ended up applying that to a couple other elements also. Box-sizing: border-box; recalculates the dimensions of an element to include border.
Some other lessons we learned (or relearned)?
SVGs don't do well on android devices although there are some workarounds (thanks to Jeremy)
CSS3 animations (Moooo!) are a little touch and go. We did eventually get it to work, but it gave us some trouble and seemed unpredictable.
Building Upwardly Mobile as a responsive site was a much smoother process and a more effective tool for accomplishing our goals than JQM was. Creating a responsive site is more work than a traditional site, but I think the added value for mobile viewing was worth it and should probably be incorporated into more of the sites we we work on.Continue reading
Two days ago the Congressional Budget Office released some new infographics about the Federal Budget in an attempt to show where revenues come from and where they are spent. Their undertaking, although valiant, falls a little flat. Sadly, many companies reach for the magical infographic but rarely are they implemented well, which many times just adds more confusion to the subject presented. Where these infographics go wrong is in their non-use of common graphics to represent the information more clearly and their lack of common design practices.Continue reading
Around this time last year, after taking over the look and feel of the Foundation instead of just the Labs, I decided to do a small refresh of the main Foundation site. The goal of this refresh was to make sure we were displaying our content in a consistent way and to make the front-end code not only cleaner but updated to use HTML5. Since that time I've settled into the position of Creative Director, we've built a small but great design team, and we've been able to start building interest around the Foundation to do a greater redesign of our brand and other main sites. The time has finally come...Continue reading
Find loan forms confusing? Wish there was a team out there that was working to make them easier for you? Well, you're in luck! The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has set out to redesign mortgage disclosure forms, making them easier for citizens to understand the loans they're accepting when purchasing a home. The CFPB team should be commended for making their design process transparent and involving the public as much as possible. The more importance that is placed on design, the more informed citizens will be — hopefully this will lead to a stronger mortgage lending system.Continue reading