Statistics by the app from the ABS

The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ new app provides a snapshot of economic indicators and statistical data. But it’s more style than substance, and even the style is somewhat lacking.

The main screen upon firing up the app is a list of key economic indicators. It is quite neat having them in one place and I could see this possibly being of use if I were a business journalist for example. What the app does not do is tell you if the figures are the most current and when the latest ones are due out; that would be an improvement. It also doesn’t allow you to do anything with them – a graph or a comparison would be good; without that it’s just a list of fairly static figures. In addition, the interface is somewhat clunky. Editing the list of which stats are displayed involves dragging things around so they appear above a certain line rather than the more usual check-box-to-activate approach.

The second section is Census data for specific postcodes. That’s quite neat. Honestly, though, I’m just not enough of a stats geek to want to know what the married population of the suburb I’m having coffee in is. The presentation here is nice enough, but again I find myself wanting more. A comparison of two suburbs – even just the one I’m in to my home suburb would perhaps be interesting. The map function here appears to just tell me where I am, rather than provide any sort of overlay.

The third section is the weakest of the lot. It’s a population counter. It appears to be just there because it can be. I mean who needs an extrapolated population count on anything like a regular basis?

Overall the app is disappointing. After the excellent personalised infographic creator I had high hopes for the ABS app. Sadly, its presentation is uninspiring and there’s really not enough meat there to bring me back again and again. There don’t even appear to be notifications when the stats update.

This feels like something the designers did because they had a hardcopy available to make into an app rather than that they really thought through what people might find useful and interesting. It’s not that this is exactly a bad app, it’s just not as good as I’d expect. I’d love this app to be better than it is; when you are an organisation with a county’s worth of  detailed data at your disposal there have to be great things that can be done. So to be generous, I’d label this a false start and hope for greater things in the future.

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