The Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions is a non-profit, non-partisan research and education institute. They are passionate about educating voters on issues and approached Switchbox to help them conceive and deliver on a vision of sharing data in a more open format for voters.
How do you educate people about a topic that affects them deeply but that is so personal it's taboo to speak about? The donors to the organization wanted visitors to understand that compensation of government officials had grown so drastically in recent years that it was creating a huge tax burden. No matter how many ways they tried to share that salaries and benefits had outpaced the private sector the message wasn't hitting home. So they tried a different approach. What if you could see exactly what your friend in public service made so you the citizen could decide if that was fair. The data is public record but was not easily searchable. So the project started with importing data from a legacy system and finding a way to make it searchable.
Switchbox worked closely with the Buckeye Institute to determine the features on the site that would generate the most interest. Each feature was carefully designed to be easy to update and easy to find. Everything from Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and user functionality was factored into the new redesign. Additional areas for content were added and an easy-to-use backend was created for each staff member to use.
Data was collected, condensed, and formatted from multiple government agencies and was loaded onto the site. Five separate databases were created to house the additional data and the web servers were upgraded to handle the additional traffic. A new search feature was created to allow public citizens to search the data and a marketing campaign was developed to drive traffic to this new feature.
The final project had to be created in a way to allow public information to be searched but at the same make it understandable. A feature was created that allowed you to search by job type instead of by individual so that users could compare their type of job to the public sector.
The site redesign was an incredible success. Visits to the site increase from around 15 per day to a peak of over 8,000 (a 53,300% increase) within one week of launching the site. Over 40,000 new visitors from all 50 states and 54 countries signed up to use the new tool within the first two months. Visitors spent over 5,000 hours viewing and using the new search features with each visitor spending over seven minutes on the site within weeks. Before the redesign of the site, very few new visitors ever returned; but after the new site launch, four out of every five visitors returns to the site. Once the new search tool was launched other groups quickly started linking to the site which further increased the viewership of the site. Site traffic continues to be up by over 2,600% and new funding has come in to support the vision of the Buckeye Institute.