Since 1888, National Geographic has supported exploration and discovery. Their programs in field-based research, conservation, exploration, and education continue to provide the world with scientific breakthroughs and discoveries that inspire people everywhere to care about our planet.
Armed with an extraordinary wealth of data collected over the years, National Geographic wanted to create a searchable access point that would not only act as an attractive and innovative showcase for National Geographic research projects, but also provide a clear and cogent search engine to be used internally.
FFunction’s solution was to create Explorers, an easy-to-use interactive data portal with three points of entry through which to explore the data; Map, Categories or Search.
The Map interface features clusters of markers denoting projects across the world. Clicking on a project marker pulls up information on the explorer, project description, category, disciplines, location, and duration. Users can continue their exploration by clicking on a different cluster, zooming into specific areas, or zooming out and exploring other regions.
The Category interface aligns each project to one main category; adventure, ancient world, animals, conservation, environment, society & culture, and space. Each main category also contains subcategories, such as anthropology, biology, and paleontology.
Users can click on a project to see the nature and duration of the research, and in many cases (especially the most recent expeditions) click through to the National Geographic blog to gain fresh insights and see candid photos of projects ranging from Louisiana’s Cajun country through to high-altitude lakes around Issyk Kul. We used animated transitions so that the user would not get lost when the graph would relay out, and also hid branches that were not a subcategory of the selection to avoid information overload. The graph becomes a "path" which is easy to double back on so users know where they are at all times.
Finally, the Search tool provides a clear and straightforward entry for those who know what they are looking for. Punch in specific keywords such as “squid,” “archeology” or “Madagascar” to quickly and simply reach all projects containing that keyword.
As with any project dealing with this level of data, an important consideration for both National Geographic and FFunction was usability. Would the user get lost? Are the clusters of research projects easy to navigate and logical in their layout? To ensure clarity and a user-friendly experience, FFunction created a simple step-by-step tutorial to introduce each interface and the ways in which they can be used. With each of the three interfaces, the user can narrow down their search at any time by adjusting the year range at the top.
As we can see in Explorers, a new generation of National Geographic explorers are redefining exploration and making the world a better place. This tool enables a wider public to access details of these expeditions and establish a collective cultural investment in discovery and conservation of the natural world.