Focus pages proposal



A focus page will be a saved search (of any kind), with a custom title, focus visualisation, and simple URL—on the technical and design side, nearly all the functionality to support focus pages already exists in HDX, so the effort would be mainly on the data team and communications sides.

Focus pages will provide a fourth major way for users to explore data on HDX:

  1. Location pages group datasets by a place (e.g. Syria)

  2. Crisis pages group datasets by an emergency (e.g. Hurricane Matthew)

  3. Org pages group datasets by the organisation uploading the data (e.g. Oxfam)

  4. Focus pages will group datasets by a shared theme (e.g. Malaria, Gender-based violence, Humanitarian funding)

Live mockup (dummy data for key figures and map):

About the name

The Latin word focus means fireplace (becomes Italian fuoco and Spanish fuego). The modern English usage of focus comes from the idea of people gathering around a fireplace or hearth, the same way we'd like humanitarians to gather around our "focus" pages.

What we have now

For listing datasets, we already have the functional equivalent of focus pages on HDX via tags and related searches, e.g.

Unfortunately, our current tag pages have three significant problems:

  • They’re hard to find

  • They’re visually unappealing

  • They’re unlikely to feature high in Google search results

The existing (hidden) functionality in HDX for Custom pages will allow us to create a special page—with title and featured visualisation—for any saved search, using only HTML forms.

Potential key users

  • iNGO workers specialising in a specific area across multiple countries (e.g. GBV, demining).

  • Cluster leads in the field.

  • Researchers and students in relevant fields.

  • Policy specialists at HQ for agencies and iNGOs.

  • Journalists researching stories.

Expected benefits for HDX

  • Better search-engine optimisation

    • a search for, e.g. “malaria data” would turn us up as a higher hit if the page had relevant text, etc., and people linked to it

  • Reaching new audiences

    • right now, HDX is highly visible in the open-data movement, but less so in specialist areas.

  • Easier to align with priorities of partners and funders

    • e.g. if a donor is funding a lot of demining activity, or an NGO is working on malaria

  • Showcase issues that are broadly important to the humanitarian community

    • … and put HDX at the centre of work in those areas.

Proposed work for HDX

HDX already contains nearly all of the technical functionality to support focus pages, via its Custom pages feature for the front end, and tagging/search feature for the backend. The only initial dev-team work item would be adding the new /focus URL path to the existing custom-pages form, which Dan estimates to be well under a half day of effort.

It would make sense to start by prototyping a single focus page for a topic like malaria or humanitarian funding. The main effort would be choosing (and perhaps cleaning) a dataset for the featured visualisation, promoting the new page via social media, and user testing it (perhaps as part of the PAF work in West Africa).

In the future, we could take a little more dev-team time to add sections for related links, graphics, and descriptions to the Custom pages feature. These would be usable for all custom pages, not just focus pages.

Relevance to PAF and GDL grants and Hague Center

  • eHealth Africa is applying for Gates Foundation grants to accelerate their work on malaria data, and are interested in sharing that data on HDX rather than building their own site

    • eHealth Africa runs the DHIS2 implementations in Guinea and Sierra Leone, so they could be a strategic partner for our PAF and GDL grants

  • Unlike ebola, malaria remains a current and highly-relevant health topic in West Africa

    • according to WHO, there were 438,000 malaria deaths worldwide in 2015, mostly in the African continent

  • A Malaria focus page would be a good place to pull together and showcase our work on the two grants

    • E.g. pulling health data from mobile and DHIS2 systems, soliciting it from partners

    • should be able to get us some press.

  • A Demining focus page could be of interest to the Dutch government, since they’re doing some major funding in that area.

  • A Funding focus page could be a good area of collaboration with IATI

    • a possible priority for the Hague Centre

Note that focus pages can be built around any search, not just a single tag. For example, a “Healthcare in West Africa” focus page (if we decided to build one) could search for the tag “health” (and maybe “sante” and others) in any of the 15 West Africa Health Organisation countries.

Risks and uncertainties

  • While we have a strong statement of interest from one partner, we don’t know how big the demand would be for this feature. (Hypothesis: more popular among donor and HQ policy specialists than in the field)

  • Twitter (the industry leaders in tag-based topics) has a special URL syntax for hashtags — — but they don’t provide custom headings or text; instead, they just use their normal search-result layout (it’s exactly the same page layout as )

  • CJ has mentioned that a short experiment with a Topics (plural) page in the past did not generate a lot of interest (though that is somewhat different from having a landing page for individual focus topics).

  • Creating a custom focus page creates the expectation that the data team will work to solicit up-to-date data for it.