March’s App of the Month – Open Data Prince George – is a hub site that the City has built to share all its data in one location. Not only does it provide access to open data, it also showcases maps and apps relevant to the public and dashboards monitoring the progress of municipal projects and events that are occurring in the city.
Tell me if this sounds familiar? So, you’re going to your friend’s house for a party, and you want to double-check if street parking is available. Your friend tells you to look at the municipal website. Half an hour in, you’re still navigating the site until you finally come across a text description of street parking information that sounds more like a wordy math question. If this sounds familiar, just know it doesn't have to be this way. Open Data Prince George is an example of how a municipal government can provide the public with useful data and tools in one easy-to-access site.
It’s not hard to start an ArcGIS Hub site if you’re already using ArcGIS Online and have apps on the platform. A challenging part could be finding images and customizing the hub site to fit your brand. However, if you’re an organization like City of Prince George, which has a website, you likely already have brand guidelines, resources and visuals that you can use. In this case, Prince George’s hub site was customized to be consistent with the colour scheme of the City’s brand. Having this consistency is important because it helps strengthen your brand and differentiate it from other organizations.
Caption: Blue and green, Prince George’s official colours, are the colours you see throughout this hub site.
Although having appealing graphics and a colour scheme are important, a top priority in the initial planning phase of a hub site is the content and how it will flow. When creating or finding content, always think about who your audience is. Knowing your audience and why they might visit your hub site takes a bit of time, in the beginning, to plan out, but it makes for effective content. For the City of Prince George, their reasons for creating the hub site were to change the way their open data was being used and have all their data in one spot for the convenience of the public and staff.
Changing the way open data is used
The City wanted their hub site to be a central repository of data where both internal and external stakeholders can go to get all the municipal information they need. They wanted to share open data in a way that goes beyond just viewing and downloading the information, but they also wanted to provide the user with a new way of interacting with the data and understanding it more easily.
Along with apps and maps that they currently have on ArcGIS Online, the City also included dashboards built using Operations Dashboard for ArcGIS, which act as visual aids to provide key insights that can help with decision-making.
A convenient one-stop shop for useful data
The hub site not only acts as a one-stop shop for Prince George data, maps and apps, but the platform also allows the user to search for specific data, making it a powerful look-up tool when it comes to finding authoritative datasets. Making authoritative content easily accessible in formats that are easy to use and understand increases community engagement.
As Laura McKersie, GIS analyst at the City of Prince George, tells us, “Users find it easier to look up information and data through the hub site. They seem to especially like the dashboards as information presented is easy to understand. Also, we do our best to display only crucial data that they need to know.”
Remember my struggle in finding street parking at my friend’s place? Well, in the gallery on City of Prince George’s hub site, I was able to find map documentation on parking. Information like this should be made easy to access to the public so that time isn’t wasted, and residents and visitors don’t get frustrated.