Following Testing and Creation of new site, UT project gets closer to figuring out who Gerry is

Screenshot of the Focus Group we hosted on Zoom

After returning from a well-deserved Spring Break, the What the &$!#% is Gerrymandering?!? crew got back to work and made huge strides in their march to complete the anticipated website! Over the course of the last month, we conducted survey research, created an official website, created maps, and officially launched social media accounts on three major platforms. While we didn’t do everything we set out to do at the beginning of the sprint, we are getting closer and closer to our ultimate goal. Here are some of the general points about what we accomplished in the last sprint.

Survey and Focus Group

For this Sprint, we were tasked with collecting input from potential users regarding key components of our project. To do this, we created an online survey via Google Forms and hosted a live Focus Group via Zoom.

Screenshot of Survey if taken on mobile

Survey

For our survey we decided to keep it short, only asking 13 multiple choice questions regarding the demographics of survey respondents (ex: what is your age), what platforms they used/preferred, whether they were aware about the issue we were focusing on, and if they would theoretically use a product like the one were creating. We distributed this survey by posting it on social media and sending it to class group chats, and over the course of a week we received over 60 responses (63 to be precise!). We found our audience of respondents to be majority-female (57%), heavily Democratic (76.2%), and somewhat politically savvy:

  • 66.6% of survey respondents rated their knowledge of Texas politics at a 6 or higher (out of 10)
  • 57.14% rated their knowledge of redistricting as a 6 or higher (out of 10)
  • 63.5% rated their knowledge of gerrymandering in national politics at a 6 or higher (out of 10)
  • 60.3% rated their knowledge of gerrymandering in Texas politics at a 6 or higher (out of 10)

We were very encouraged to see that 49.2% responded ‘yes’ when asked if they would use a website that discussed gerrymandering, with 41.3% responding ‘maybe’ and only 9.5% giving a definitive ‘no’. However one of the biggest takeaways from our survey was that 70% of respondents said they would like to see ‘video’ used as a platform to educate people …., so that is something we will be looking into going forward.

Focus Group

For our Focus Group, we did a 1-hour Zoom session where we had 6 males, all aged 21–24 participate. For this one, we decided to focus on questions related to parts of our project that had already been completed, like color scheme, website design, and game format. Results were mostly positive, as the participants appeared to like the wireframe design of the website and issue we were focusing on. However they did seem to have an issue with the color design of the logo, as they had a hard time distinguishing between the color purple and the color blue. To address this, we plan to expand the background color and intensity the color blue. They also provided feedback on the type of game we were planning, seeming to favor a ‘true-or-false’ style game rather than a puzzle-focused one. With this in mind (and the amount of complex coding a puzzle-game would entail), we decided as a team to instead go for a ‘true-or-false’ style game. Overall, results were mostly positive from our focus group. Our hope is that we can include more women in the future focus group we will be holding.

Creation of new website

The gerrymandering project made big steps towards creating our minimal viable product — our website! As we end our second sprint, we’ve created a solid foundation for our home, about and blog pages. The site has working links and some dynamic functionality, such as clicking different buttons on the home page to see how gerrymandering is affecting different cities. For now, a lot of the copy contains filler text and we have placeholder images for where our interactive maps will be located. This sprint, we also finalized the format of the game we want to utilize for our site. After conducting our survey and focus group, we discovered that a simple True or False quiz would be the easiest to implement and the most fun for our users. We are currently drafting web copy for each of the finished pages and writing the quiz questions, so we hope to be able to provide our users with that soon! For now, you can find our site at this temporary url: https://chpeebles.github.io/gerrymandering_proj

Mapping

One of the biggest decisions we have to make was determining how we should present the maps as a cohesive story. The map serves as a big element in the story of gerrymandering we want to tell. Through many discussions with potential users, professors, and many more, the team has decided to create maps using a mixture of ArcGIS and Illustrator to better represent the stories and highlights we want to tell to the audience.

Using ArcGIS, we are creating a map where users can discover the different district lines that have existed since Texas became part of the United States. Using a slider, we hope that this can show users that the Texas map continuously changes and its evolution. Then, we are using illustrators to create lines of maps to highlight the area that we want to tell stories about, such as the East 6th street in Austin, where a neighborhood is split into 3 congressional districts. Through the mix methods, we believe that it would better represent the story that we want to tell about the impact of gerrymandering in Texas.

Throughout the past month, we are able to make significant progress and we are very excited to share it with everyone by the end of the semester.

Social Media (@txgerryproject)

Screenshot of our profile on Twitter
Screenshot of profile on Instagram (2 followers!)

On Wednesday, April 7, we officially launched accounts on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. In order to give our social media presence one cohesive brand, all platforms use (and will use going forward in the event of a name change) the same profile username. That username (at the moment) is @txgerryproject. We will begin to start posting shortly, but don’t forget to give us a follow on any of those platforms to see future content!

We’ve made a lot of progress over the last month, and we’re hoping in our next blog post we will have a full-fledged complete website ready to show to you all!

Journalism and Government Senior at the University of Texas at Austin