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Usability and Open Source Go Hand-in-Hand for Data.gov

Data.gov launched a major upgrade today, moving to a new catalog based on an open source data management system called CKAN. In the process of migrating to a new data catalog, Data.gov had the opportunity to do another round of usability testing. Lucky for us, the DigitalGov User Experience Program, that teaches agencies how to test federal websites, is right in our own backyard. With today’s launch, you’ll see the initial results of what we learned from our testers; an expert Data.gov user, an expert data user (but not necessarily Data.gov user) and a newcomer to the site.

Data.gov’s new data catalog is the core of a “Data.gov 2.0” that will be completed in the coming months. The User Experience Program taught us how to manage everything involved in testing the new catalog, from creating usability tasks for the testers to coordinating session logistics. Leading testers through the tasks requires expertise, probing for what they’re really thinking, why they make the choices they make and what can be done better. Because First Fridays showed us how to do that, we received exhaustive – and actionable – feedback.

When you visit Data.gov’s new data catalog, you’ll find a number of enhancements.

  • Our improved search helps you find all the datasets for a particular location – such as your zip code – better sorting and tagging of datasets, and improved metadata.

  • Data.gov now has one unified data catalog based on an open source standard, which will make the datasets in Data.gov easier to use with other federal agency catalogs, as well as those of states, cities, and counties.

  • The new CKAN catalog will also enable the implementation of the Open Data Policy, as it will easily harvest the data inventories that federal agencies will be creating under the policy.

The result is an easy-to-use, comprehensive catalog that allows citizens, developers and others to fully take advantage of the vast array of federal data that affects the daily lives of citizens.

Today is just the first step in a number of dramatic improvements in Data.gov scheduled for the months ahead. Thanks to First Fridays, we’ve got feedback on long-term improvements we can make as well.

Check out the new catalog and stay tuned!

By guest bloggers Hyon Kim, Deputy Director, and Sally Bourrie, PhaseOne contractor for Data.gov.


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