One of the goals of IMPACT is to make data on various public issues in Lebanon widely available and accessible to the average person through a comprehensive, user-friendly online database.
Regardless of how useful the data in itself is on the platform, it is vital, in order to fulfill the objective of facilitating people’s access to information, that this data is easily accessible and consumable.
From this perspective, the responsiveness, simplicity, and clarity of the IMPACT platform’s interface and its overall technical health are as important as the statistics and information it provides.
Is IMPACT User-friendly?
Generally speaking, the IMPACT platform’s interface is simple and intuitive. Its data sections are presented in a way that makes it easy enough for the average user to navigate and consume without getting confused.
However, there are several underlying issues that can make the experience of retrieving data from the platform an awkward one.
The Language Barrier
One major issue that is immediately noticeable when browsing the platform is the language inconsistency problem it seems to have.
On the homepage, there is an option to switch the language from English to Arabic and vice-versa, and the language button seems to be working fine on the main page for the most part.
However, the translation falls apart in the actual data sections.
No matter the language chosen by the user on the homepage, the data is presented in a mixture of Arabic and English that, in some sections, gets quite messy.
To begin with, the default, unchangeable language used for the subtitles that are supposed to help familiarize the user with each section is English, which alienates the significant portion of the population that only knows — or prefers to use — Arabic.
English is also the default language for most of the labeling on the charts included in the data sections, which, again, can make it difficult for someone who doesn’t know or isn’t proficient with English to comprehend.
On the flipside, some of the data is only available in Arabic, such as the names of the governorates, districts, and municipalities that show in the drop-down menu of the filtering tools in each section.
With that said, in some tables, such as the “Cumulative positive cases by municipality” table in the COVID-19 Tracking section, the information is presented both in English and in Arabic in separate columns, which would have been fair had the rest of the data been presented in the same way.
Apart from the language problem, the IMPACT website appears to have some other technical flaws that might not be as significant but can nonetheless negatively affect the user experience and the accessibility of the data.
One such example sits in the middle of the homepage, under “Updates.”
At least on the desktop version of the website, fields under Municipal Needs, Municipal Measures, Municipal Incidents, and Ministerial Measures seem to occasionally disappear, and the “Load more” button in the same space occasionally fails to function.
For instance, the button is, at the time of writing, completely unresponsive, blocking access to files such as new ministerial decisions and municipal measures.
Staying in the Updates section, the filtering tool that allows users to view results by governorate, district, and/or municipality also gets occasionally unresponsive while browsing on PC.
A quick scroll down reveals another recurrent issue that is apparently also exclusive to the desktop website: The value of everything under IMPACT in Numbers, Municipal Data, and Ministerial Data randomly resets to “0.”
These three bugs don’t seem to turn up when browsing the site on mobile (the same browser was used on mobile and PC for this evaluation).
Some of the problems with the platform are not as impactful and might be considered to be more on the “cosmetic” side, but they, too, can also badly influence the user experience sometimes.
For one thing, some subtitles in some data sections are too long and wider than the viewable limit of the page, which might cause confusion.
These issues can be encountered both on PC and mobile, but more so on the latter, due to smaller screen size.
Similarly, the context provided by the “info” icon about a certain topic can in some cases be unreadable due to it containing a block of text that is too large to be fully viewed.
Aside from the aforementioned flaws and bugs, it is safe to say that the IMPACT platform has a fairly intuitive and responsive interface and a comfortable layout that presents information in a clear, digestible manner.
It is important to mention that the dedicated team behind IMPACT continues to assiduously work to improve, develop, and optimize the platform. This is a first-of-its-kind open data venue in Lebanon thriving for internal affairs transparency, which serves the public, the local media, and NGOs seeking to help there where it is most needed.