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Three learnings from The Guardian US election live tracker.

The 2020 US live election tracker was the most viewed page of The Guardian ever. The result of a tremendous effort of journalists, designers and engineers.

On Wednesday 4 November, the Guardian recorded its highest-ever digital traffic, reaching over 190 million page views and 52.9m unique browsers worldwide in 24 hours. The live results tracker was the most viewed page ever on the Guardian website. 

The multidiscipline team involved in the project – visual journalists, designers, engineers – told their success story here:

The three main teachings, in a nutshell: 

1. Good planning is halfway to success. It takes time, thoughts, and lots of user testing. 

  • The visual Team at the Guardian started planning the election coverage six-months ahead, reviewing and collecting visualizations from the past and from other news organizations.
  • The entire process was based on human-centred-design: thoughts and ideas were validated with two rounds of user testing. 
  • in the first round, the team showed readers a set of 2016 election interactive charts from different news organizations 
  • based on the readers’ ´ feedback, the team prepared a mockup of the new Guardian election page 

2. A good election data page is not only about results: it must have a narrative and provide a context for readers. 

  • The Guardian Team included information on the page about the key states to watch and the history of how each had voted in the past.
  • They provided context and explainers, not giving any things as already known. 

On the opposite, the big engagement on the page, happening already before it showed any actual election results, showed that not only Europeans, but many Americans were looking for information about how the overly complex US electoral system works. 

3. Not all sources are made equal, and technology matters. 

The Team took an informed decision on which source to use (AP) and – that was of paramount importance – how to ingest efficiently every 15 seconds the data coming from AP. The batch processing of data could therefore detect and elaborate any small changes of data, as they were available.

The page is still on. Check it out:

Conclusion. In the words of The Guardian:

“2020 has seen two huge stories–first the COVID-19 crisis and now the US election–that have highlighted how important data literacy has become for journalists. Data-driven visuals are everywhere and they can cause a strong emotional reaction in readers, but it’s also more important than ever to consider whether your dataset may not be telling the whole story, or your graphic could be misleading the reader.”

The Guardian: Tracking the US election results.

P.S. Now that the dust settled, a further visual recap highlights some interesting facts:

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