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New features on data.worldbank.org

Jeff McCoy's picture

We've been working hard all summer, and today we're very excited to unveil new features and enhancements on data.worldbank.org. Back in April 2010, we announced that the World Bank would be releasing all of its data for free.  We worked with Eric Gundersen and his team at Development Seed to launch data.worldbank.org to help people to find, visualize and download these data sets. After our initial launch, we evaluated the existing site, did extensive user testing, and spoke with a number of visitors to see what else they were looking for on data.worldbank.org.  This helped us prioritize the new features and improvements to add to the site. 

Below are the items I'm most excited about, but first, here is a video of Eric showing off some of his favorite new features:



Charts, maps and graphs - and more data.  The data browser has many more options to create custom charts, maps and graphs.  Charts now allow countries to be compared to each other and to their region or income groups.  Maps now include gradients (shades) in addition to dots and can be viewed full screen, and tables show a longer date range.  I think it's become a much more useful tool especially now that we've added more indicators to the site - up from 300+ in April to more than 1,200 now, with the full WDI dataset being included in the data browser.

Embeddable widgets.  One of the main goals of the data site is to make data useful and usable, not just on data.worldbank.org but throughout the web, and we’re trying a number of ways to achieve this.  All of the charts, maps and graphs are now available as widgets that can be embedded in other sites.  We plan to use this ourselves so we can make data more available throughout the worldbank.org sites we manage, and we encourage you to try these out on your own blogs and sites.  Please give us feedback on how you’re using them and how we can improve them further.

Drupal module and API query builder.  In addition to widgets, we make Bank data available through data downloads and a full API so you can work directly with the data to build whatever you’d like.  If you’re a programmer, we’d also encourage you to enter our Apps for Development competition.  However, we realize that working with an API can be a bit daunting, so we’ve taken some steps to make working with our data easier.

First, we’ve released a graphical API query builder so you can easily explore the API.  We’ve had this internally for a while, and it’s a tool I’ve used whenever someone has had a question on the API.  I’m not a programmer, but I can use the query builder to build sample calls, verify output, and generally learn how the API works.  We’ve gotten the query builder code and features to a point where we can release this publically, and we hope you find it a useful tool.

Also, we want to make it as easy as possible to use the API to create complex websites and applications.  To build data.worldbank.org, we created an interface between the API and the Drupal CMS that powers the site so we could more easily build out components and features.  We’re releasing this as a module on drupal.org, and we encourage you to download it and try it out.  It works with Views 3 to build Drupal views that go directly against the Bank’s data API.  If you’re like me and know Drupal but aren’t a programmer, this should allow you to create complex web sites that may have been out of reach before.  If you are a programmer, we hope this will make building data-driven sites a lot easier and faster.  Check it out: http://drupal.org/project/wbapi.

Multilingual.  One of the most challenging aspects of launching the site was getting everything to work properly in French, Spanish and Arabic.  In particular, a lot of  charting and graphing libraries haven't been extensively tested with right to left languages like Arabic, so getting all of the visualization to work just right in Arabic - in particular in Internet Explorer - took a lot of effort.  We’ve gone through the Arabic aspects of the site and have made a lot of small improvements and fixes, so if you’re an Arabic reader, please take a look.  We’re really proud of having one of the more complex and complete data websites in Arabic.

Data Catalog.  The Data Catalog has been expanded and improved.  You can now find more datasets in the catalog and more supporting information about each dataset.  We plan to keep adding to the catalog over time so this becomes the one place to go to find any World Bank dataset.

Please visit data.worldbank.org to explore the new improvements and features.  And now that one phase of development has ended, we’re already planning for the next one, so please send us feedback - your comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated.
 

Comments

Submitted by Sebastian on
I created YQL mappings for some of the API endpoints to make interaction with the API even easier. Would be happy to discuss this with user users and the wordbank.org team of course. You can find the mappings at: http://bit.ly/wb-yql

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