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I'm working on a website about public health that has a somewhat confusing data structure. It currently opens up to a list of location categories (one-to-many) that contain a content page and a list of "hotspot types" (also one-to-many), and each hotspot type contains a short content page and a link to a map with locations of that type.

For instance:

  • Healthy Eating (category)
    • Community Gardens (hotspot type)
      • Map links
    • Farmer's Markets
      • Map links
  • Active Living
  • ...

Additionally, there's also a second taxonomy, location types (many-to-many) that basically applies to every hotspot type and is also a content page. Examples of those are "Where we live", "Where we work", "Where we play", etc.

Now, my client requested that we focus the website on this second taxonomy, showing the list of all 6 possible variations on the landing page. This taxonomy should be emphasized, but the categories should still be present somewhere.

My problem here is that while this type of structure is not totally uncommon as categories and tags for blog posts are pretty similar, on that case, the final post is the focus and the page where all the "final content" really resides. On my case, the most crucial content resides on the pages describing each taxonomy, while the last element of the structure is just a mark on the map. I'm finding this structure pretty confusing, but maybe I'm missing something.

Does anyone have suggestions on how to structure this type of information so that the relationship between the elements is clear to the user while retaining the content emphasis requested by the client?

The current website is live, you can find it on http://www.cookcountypublichealth.org/healthy-hotspot. The list of categories is down the page, while the second taxonomy, location types, can be found under Places that Can Affect Your Health on the sidebar.

  • Have you got some screenshots you can share. Whilst you go into detail, it is still a little difficult to visualise your scenario and that makes it harder to offer suggestions/answers. – Monomeeth May 16 '16 at 21:55
  • I can actually do you one better. The current website is live, you can find it on cookcountypublichealth.org/healthy-hotspot The list of categories is down the page, while the second taxonomy, location types, can be found under Places that Can Affect Your Health on the sidebar. – Andre Goersch May 16 '16 at 22:10
  • It sounds like a hybrid approach of combining a 'tree' and 'tag-based' combination to organising content would work better. – Michael Lai May 16 '16 at 23:21
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    I would recommend to perform a card sorting exercise with your real users. This can be done remotely or in-person. youtube.com/watch?v=PgX6q1lfB2Y – Andy May 17 '16 at 11:02
  • I had a look at the website, and found it really confusing, I think because it is not clear who the audience is. It might be an idea to have an area of the site that is just about the Healthy Hotspots, and use a faceted search to get to them. – Yvonne Aburrow May 23 '16 at 14:04
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This is a fantastic candidate for a highly interactive data visualization. Once I got to the map, I thought, YES, this is what tells the story. My criticism of the current setup is that it is a pogo-sticking workflow that forces you down a path then up and out again if you want to either get an overview or learn more about a specific thing. That's not engaging, that's task-oriented. I think this workflow does not promote exploration enough.

I would like the map to be more interactive. Allow me to turn healthy hotspots on and off by item type (community gardens, smoke-free workplaces, etc.), filter by Live/Work/Play, enter a ZIP code or neighborhood to adjust the zoom level.

Provide a visual overview: Allow users to view the wealth (or dearth) of healthy hotspots near them.

Promote exploration: Don't dead-end the user's flow at one healthy hotspot. Let them keep exploring the map by making the details available in context.

The text that your client wants to highlight is interesting, but the message can really be boiled down to "our environment plays a large role in our health". Much of that information can be turned into a nice little PDF booklet, but the truly engaging part is the map.

Promote social sharing: What if a user could share their neighborhood's data socially? (Facebrag: Look how healthy my neighborhood is?)

What if people living in a "food desert" actually had a community garden they didn't know about, within walking distance? (Let's check this out together!) Would this change the way they view their environment? I think it would.

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