The Africa Regional Integration Index is an initiative funded and supported by the African Development Bank, the African Union Commission and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, which is designed to track the progress of African countries and regional economic communities (RECs) towards achieving their shared regional integration goals.
Whilst the initiative pulls together data and statistics, creating the index, the value is only realised if this vital information is shared and disseminated to key stakeholders. The Africa Regional Integration Index will therefore be published as a print based publication, however its reach will be limited and a website will play a critical roll in distributing the content to a wider audience.
The brief was to create a website which published the findings of the Index, however there were limitations of the findings and we were charged with the responsibility of creating an online view into the indexes findings with the objective of delivering far more than the print publication.
One of the major desires of this project was to use the benefits of online to create interactive charts and data representations, offering a more engaging and dynamic view into the initiative’s findings.
With the data being collated during the initial period of the project, it was difficult to know what exactly we’d be presenting. An agile approach was required where we needed to adapt and accommodate change as project evolved. This was made more difficult by the nature of ARII not only being a newly created organisation which was still evolving, but also by the nature of having key partners distributed in different geographic locations.
A large proportion of the content for the website was to be written for the offline report. Layouts that work well for print often don’t translate very well to web pages. A balance was needed between replicating the content of the offline report, while accommodating challenges unique to the web. Unlike the offline report, the website needed to adapt to different devices. It would also need to be largely template driven so that editing content can be done efficiently using a CMS.
From a design perspective there was an interesting tension - on one side there was a desire to present the report in a vibrant and colourful manner, however on the other side there was an understanding that this need to be conveyed in a serious and more academic manner. We also needed to be sensitive to political issues within the different organisations ensuring the websites design did not appear over close to one partner or another (colours, fonts, layouts etc), potentially appearing to favour one over the other.
The final challenge was due to the expectation that there would be a magic statistical tool that would allow the user to see anything they wanted. Whilst much can be done to display data online, the reality is that views into data need context and simply making a chart interactive can actually result in the user having to work very hard to get the view they want. With this in mind we really needed to dive into the data and really engage in what the finders were, developing relevant user journeys into the data and statistics.
Officially launched at The African Development Week 2016 in Ethiopia, The Africa Integration Index was widely covered by the world’s press.
Although taking a lead from the print publication, the final website goes above and beyond. It takes advantage of being online by utilising interactive charts and even pulling in data that isn’t used offline. This makes for a more granular experience where the user can get a quick overview but can also dig down further.
Rather than building a data explorer, forcing the reader to come to their own conclusions, we were able to offer chart types that instantly conveyed the information. This is often accompanied by notes on how to read the data and what the data means; Difficult to achieve offline.
The design of the website strikes the perfect balance between an academic, serious feel with the desire for this to feel vibrant and exciting.
From a technical point of view SVG charts were used rather than static images. This allows the charts to automatically change when the data is updated by the ARII team, as well offering adapting their layout for different device sizes.
ARII plan to take full advantage of the CMS by updating pages and adding to the news and knowledge section as more detailed analysis is written.