Written by: Stephen Buckner
You may have noticed that census.gov has been undergoing some modest changes since December. Based on customer research and feedback we collected and analyzed over time, we heard loud and clear that both search and navigation of our site could be much better. Visitors to census.gov shouldn’t have to work so hard to find the information and statistics they’re looking for to complete their research, personal projects or business needs.
I’m happy to say that we are well underway with our transformation, and that we’re in the midst of beginning to roll out some big changes in the coming months. I hope to use this blog as a place to regularly update our Census Bureau customers on those changes, but also to create an ongoing dialogue to solicit feedback and suggestions on how to improve the site. Each post will focus on a particular subject and area of improvement, including things like search, navigation, data visualization, APIs, new data access tools and even mobile apps.
Tomorrow, the Census Bureau will be launching its first-ever public API for developers, and in early August, our first mobile app – America’s Economy. Both are big steps for the Census Bureau, because they acknowledge that our users are not only changing how they want our statistics, they’re changing how they access them.
The API serves up both 2010 Census and American Community Survey statistics for every neighborhood in the US, and delivers on our commitment to create a platform for innovation by “opening up our data”. This information-centric approach is outlined in the recently released Federal Digital Strategy, and promises to be the new default for all public data – users of all varieties will benefit by creating new ways and tools to explore the data they want to, rather than the government restricting its use through PDFs and impossible to download formats. We’ve already gotten lots of comments during our initial beta-version phase over the last 2 months, but feel free to keep them coming following our public launch of the census API.
America’s Economy (Figure 1) will let economist, planners and policy makers have greater access to key indicators about the health of the U.S. economy via their mobile devices. This customer-centric approach combines numbers from the Census Bureau, Bureau of Economic Analysis and Bureau of Labor Statistics to create a better view of our constantly changing economy and markets. The app will be available for both Android and IOS smart phone and tablet users. Two additional apps will be launched later in the Fall, but I’ll save those details for a future post.
We are looking to create a contest or a hack-a-thon to bring users and developers together in one room to design apps we have not even thought of. In the interim, ask yourself what types of applications you would like to see developers work on.
The point is, while we are genuinely excited about some of the changes we’re making to census.gov, they’re all meaningless if they don’t meet the needs of our users. We greatly appreciate and encourage your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org, and hope to construct a new census.gov site worthy of your daily interest and explorations.
You can also follow us on Twitter @uscensusbureau for the latest updates, news and statistics about our changing nation’s people, places and economy.