Case #2262.0

A User-Centered Design Process for Data-Driven Policymaking

Publication Date: August 22, 2023
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Well-conceived, user-friendly data visualizations have the potential to bring fresh perspectives derived from analyzing, visualizing, and presenting data to inform evidence-based policymaking. This case uses the Metroverse project from the Growth Lab at Harvard University as an example to demonstrate the value of taking a user-centered mindset to build effective, online data platforms. The Metroverse project is a high-stakes data project that has the potential to influence policy matters in large cities and metropolitan areas, potentially impacting millions of urban residents. This case enables students to design storytelling data visualization projects using the three components of the case, (a case study; “Detroit Scenario”; an issue brief, “A User-Centered Design Process for Data-Driven Policymaking”; and the Metroverse website), and a workshop kit of Metroverse materials that includes data sets, research resources, and user profiles, developed by the Growth Lab team through a user-centered design process.

In particular, the issue brief introduces the user-centered design process that was followed to create the prototype for Harvard Growth Lab’s Metroverse, an online tool that allows users to explore the industrial composition of more than 1,000 cities worldwide to understand urban economic composition and growth opportunities in cities. With this tool, a city's know-how is made “visible” through a series of interactive visualizations. Metroverse builds on this information to provide customized recommendations for growth, diversification, and comparison. The issue brief covers product discovery, user research, and design phases with the goal of providing important insights into creating a user experience design for data exploration platforms that translate complex scientific research into accessible visualizations for stakeholders involved in policymaking.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand user-centered design methods and measurements: product discovery, user experience research, persona building, user testing, wireframing, and prototyping;
  • Develop an understanding of how policymakers can use data visualization dashboards to learn about economic growth;
  • Learn how to turn scientific research and data about the economy into visual narratives for policymakers and government officials;
  • Design effective data visualization user experiences for a diverse group of users, and;
  • Address common challenges in communicating research and data insights to a wide range of audiences with different backgrounds.


Other Details

Annie White, Nil Tuzcu, Hong Qu
Faculty Lead:
Hong Qu
Pages (incl. exhibits):