The making of Openaid.se

Parts of this blog post have previously been published on Publish What You Fund’s web site, as we were asked to write a guest blog post about the new version of Openaid.se. Here is what we told them:

Sida has been publishing IATI data since 2011, but this is the first time that we are actually “eating our own dog food” in the sense that the data on the website comes straight from Sweden’s IATI xml-file in the IATI Datastore. This is important not only because it forces us to improve the quality of our IATI data (no aid tracker is ever better than the data it is based on), but it also shows our commitment to aid transparency and the IATI standard.

IATI_WP

Furthermore, the web site is built as an open source WordPress theme where you can add any data set from the IATI Datastore. An important choice in the development of the tracker was to build it so that it will work for anyone who publishes IATI data and wants to visualize the data on their own tracker. This means that any aid donor or recipient can make a quick WordPress installation, add the theme and their own data, and be up and running with an aid tracker within hours.

You are also allowed to use parts of the web site and adapt it to your liking (because let’s be honest, some adaptation is probably going to be needed as all countries/organisations are different and have different ways of structuring their work). Even though we haven’t yet posted the details of the project and how to use it, there is already one organisation that has started using parts of it (UNFPA). We will update our “For developers” page on Openaid.se with this information soon, but for now you can contact us at openaid@sida.se if you are interested in finding out more.

Except for making the site “IATI native” and doing everything open source, there is one more thing we have focused on in order to make the new version of Openaid.se a great improvement over the old one. Usability.

openaid-se-top-menu

First of all we wanted to focus more on the professional user (i.e. people who work within the aid sector and/or with aid data as well as researchers and journalists with a special interest in aid and development cooperation). But at the same time we wanted the basic interface to be ridiculously simple, in order for anyone to be able to use it.

graph

In other words, we didn’t want to make a complex cockpit style interface with hundreds of buttons and sliders to master in order for the user to be able to make the most of the data. Simple and intuitive yet precise and sophisticated were the keywords.

Did we succeed? Well, you be the judge.

All in all, we are happy with the web site so far, but much work still remains. We will continue to develop the interface, add more information to the “for developers section”, as well as more functionality and visualisations – and perhaps most importantly, continue to improve our IATI data.

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