The Coronavirus (COVID-19) dashboard was a ground-breaking tool that demonstrated the strength of public appetite for data and provided local and national decision-makers with crucial information that helped to inform response.
From Thursday 21 December it will be fully replaced by the UKHSA data dashboard, which has been available alongside it since its launch in September 2023. The new dashboard will continue to highlight priority data and trends with an initial focus on respiratory viruses – including COVID-19 – but its metrics will be constantly assessed and updated with the aim to expand to reflect the full breadth of UKHSA’s remit.
Building on the strong foundations of its predecessor, the new public dashboard will continue to meet the needs of multiple users through a curated and accessible public interface, whilst continuing to provide a more granular data download functionality through APIs for professional users, such as academics, media, and industry. Accessibility, data quality assurance, thoughtful metric selection, and extensive user research have been instrumental in developing this new dashboard.
In this blog post, we will address some of the most common questions we've had from the public about the UKHSA data dashboard and how we will continue to develop it.
What’s staying the same?
The dashboard will allow us to share relevant and useful data, trends and information, in a timely, user-centred and transparent way. It will meet the needs of different types of users, through an accessible, user-friendly front-end design, with data download functionality through application programming interfaces (APIs) for professional users, such as academics, media, and industry.
The dashboard has an expanded focus, and will include data on multiple public health threats, initially opening up data on respiratory viruses other than COVID-19.
The dashboard will also continue to ensure COVID-19 data is presented in an accessible format, while contributing and committing to the organisation’s winter preparedness effort.
The UKHSA dashboard builds on learnings from the COVID-19 dashboard but aims to enhance aspects like accessibility, data quality, metrics, and user experience. Through user testing, we’ve worked to present data in a simple, inclusive and useful way.
The COVID-19 dashboard was designed for use in the height of a global pandemic, whereas the new dashboard is designed and built for longevity - reflecting the context of a post-pandemic world with more curated metrics and the capacity to build in new public health topics over time. The type of data which is now reported has changed some of the data is no longer collected, and some of the metrics are less useful than they were during the pandemic and could be misleading.
Selecting meaningful metrics
User testing and research heavily guided the build of the UKHSA data dashboard. User insight is vital when considering how our users will interact with the dashboard and where they might find any metrics particularly confusing or even misleading.
When deciding which metrics should and should not be on the UKHSA data dashboard, analysts in the Data Product Development team (DPD) considered some key questions:
Is the metric still relevant?
As a team, we reviewed all the metrics and considered the needs of all of our different types of users, including the general public, public health professionals, media, journalists and academics.
Those metrics which still provide benefit in the context of Living with COVID guidance, where all legal domestic restrictions have been lifted, remain.
Does the data represent the latest picture?
For the UKHSA data dashboard, we will only be showing data by event date - when something occurred rather than when it was reported.
Data by publication date, the date by which the metric was reported, was useful at the height of the pandemic alongside event date, as it showed we were presenting the latest data as it was reported.
But now we are not in a pandemic state, data by event date is more representative of the health situation: for example, the publication date could be yesterday, but the latest event date within that data could be 2 weeks ago.
Does the data have longevity?
We want to make sure the UKHSA data dashboard has longevity and any metric, whether taken forward from the previous dashboard or newly available, is consistently available now and in the future.
During our review of the metrics, we considered if there were any indications the data might not be available in the future. If there were concerns, we would look into the likelihood of this happening and make a decision on whether to include the metric.
When deciding on whether a new topic will be added to the dashboard, whether that is an existing publication or the latest data connected to an incident, we will assess these topics on criteria which evaluate public health significance and interest and the reliability, availability and quality of the data.
We will still be reporting COVID-19 cases on the UKHSA data dashboard, including test positivity - which is the percentage of total number of reported tests that are positive, and is not the percentage of the population of who currently have COVID-19 - which brings reporting of testing for COVID-19 in line with existing reporting for other respiratory illnesses such as flu.
Involving Users Throughout
Feedback from users has driven the design and build choices the whole team has made when building the UKHSA data dashboard. By listening and responding to user feedback and focus groups, we’ve been better able to understand user needs, motivations and pain points and make changes to services which reflect practical daily use.
A public survey gathered usage feedback from over 5,000 respondents, alongside user sessions with media journalists, local authority workers, epidemiologists, data scientists, local community volunteers and those who aren’t users of the dashboard. Helping us to generate personas based on use needs were developed covering the spectrum from casual to expert users.
By focusing on accessibility, data quality, purposeful metrics, and user-centric design, the UKHSA dashboard aims to be an invaluable public health data resource.
We will be continuing to develop the UKHSA data dashboard in the coming months, with new features and functionality being added regularly. You can read about upcoming changes to the dashboard here. Over time, we also plan to add information and more health threats, for example other viruses and diseases.
Our aim is to provide a service that helps our users find the information that they need, and we welcome any feedback or suggestions through our feedback form.