How best to present catalogue of data online?
December 10, 2014 3:13 AM   Subscribe

We've surveyed 80+ organisations, to build something like a database of their answers to questions that we know our members want to know. But how best to share the results? You guys know this stuff and have good ideas about it: please share!

Each organisation answered about 20 questions - some questions give numeric responses, others are free text items like contact details / keywords / policies. Currently I've got a messy excel file with all the results (exported from surveymonkey). The question: how to present the data to our public.

We're not a high tech organisation, and we don't have much of a budget. We've a website with CMS (which I manage, I can cope with with html too, but that's about it). The current plan, which I don't think I like: a page with an alphabetical list of the organisations, click any of them and it'll open a page with that organisation's responses. A tiny-bit more advanced: a drop down list of the organisations, selecting any of them opens a new page with their answers.

The problem with this idea: there's no useful way to compare different responses without having each organisation you're interested in open in a different tab, and switching between them (maybe that's good enough, our members aren't likely to be doing any analysis, it's more likely that they're just looking up responses to get a single bit of data). Another problem: there's no way to search/filter the responses (e.g. show me all the organisations who feature this keyword).

I figure what we'd need is some sort of database / pivot table feature, and I think that might be beyond our reach (unless you know of free & easily implementable services). So, unless something like that is a viable option, we're limited to just trying to find the best way of presenting the material. I'll be doing some analysis and writing a kind of press-release about it, mostly to highlight what kind of information is available, but most people coming to the survey results are mostly likely only going to be interested in finding out 'what does organisation X say in response to that question?'. And yes, at present, I don't feel like we've got a nice way of presenting the range of answers.

Any thoughts? Thanks!
posted by Joeruckus to Computers & Internet (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I suspect a jQuery plugin like DataTables could present this nicely with a search box, columns you can toggle on or off, etc. You'd face several relatively minor challenges: putting your data into an HTML table, getting your CMS's editor to accept the table without gunking it up, putting the jQuery and DataTables code into your CMS template, and configuring the plugin to know about your table's details. Your CMS may actually give you the most trouble here, so consider putting this on a static page with a minimal design around it. That would put this within range of someone who can work with HTML and follow installation instructions, but configuring the plugin technically counts as programming, and you'd probably prefer to convert the data to HTML via a tiny bit of programming too.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 3:57 AM on December 10, 2014

DataTables does sound rather nice.

On the other hand, I think your current plan of separate pages for each organization is also totally fine if you also provide the Excel spreadsheet containing the original data. That way, people who just want one piece of information can get it easily on your website, while people with more complicated needs can just download the spreadsheet and do their own searches/comparisons/analysis. To be more cross-platform, you could also provide a CSV file exported from the spreadsheet for the benefit of people who don't have Excel.

In any case, I think the "more advanced" option is actually worse, because you can't Ctrl+click on dropdown menu options to open them in a new tab.
posted by narain at 5:51 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

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