A magnifying glass over a map

Data entry: How it’s going so far

By Rose Anderson 18 January 2021 4 minute read

As the New Year progresses, we’re pushing ahead and planning for the Alpha development of the My Best Life app, which means developing our data model. It’s an exciting time for us! The app is beginning to be brought to life, and now we can start to see if the theoretical benefits we’d anticipated play out in practice.

Last week, we had a couple of online sessions with our digital partner Neon Tribe, where we explored data modelling and defined the fields for data entry. We discussed the information we thought young people would need, and then we prioritised the information needed for this stage of development. For example, we discussed a possible quiz within the app to better personalise the search results. We considered what questions we might ask in the quiz and the data we’d need to collect.

After this, we began the process of data entry—finding out about charities in Lambeth, where we are piloting the app, and using information about them to test the data fields. We’ve starting trialling a data collection method in a spreadsheet, and the data fields currently include:

  • The charity name and service name.
  • A short description of the service (only 25 characters!) to give an overview of what it’s all about. This will be shown in the app’s search results, so it needs to be punchy.
  • A longer description, detailing what young people can expect when they arrive and what they could get out of it.
  • ‘Categories’ of services. These are based on what young people might want help with, such as ‘Mental health’, ‘Friends’, ‘Drink and drugs’ and ‘My rights and the law’.
  • The cost of the service.
  • Requirements for participation, including the age range and whether or not the service is gender-specific.
  • The service format (eg, online, over the phone, meeting a group of people, one-to-one sessions).
  • ‘Interests’. These are based on what young people enjoy in their spare time, such as ‘Sports’, ‘Music’, ‘Art’, ‘Reading’ and ‘Volunteering’.
  • Quotes from young people who have already taken part (found on the charity’s website for the time being).
  • The location of the service.
  • The times and days on which the service runs.
  • Links to the charity’s website and social media pages.
  • Details of how to access the service, including email addresses, phone numbers and a link to the web form if there is one.
  • Images of young people using the service, or of staff.

This data entry is a task that Kathryn, Nicola and I are tackling together. As we go, we’ll be making a note of any important information that our fields don’t currently cover, and of any information that’s needed to fill in the fields but hard to find. So far, we’ve already discussed expanding the list of ‘interests’, as some of the local services we’ve researched are centred on hobbies we hadn’t originally included.

Once we’ve trialled this data entry, our digital partner will be configuring an off-the-shelf Content Management System (CMS), changing the pre-existing fields to match the data points we have. We and our partner will develop the platform together. After that, we’ll be able to do data entry through the CMS platform to save time and hopefully improve the consistency of the entries.

It’s especially important that all the data we collect is written in such a way that it appeals to a young person—that it is simple, jargon-free and written from their perspective. We have considered whether or not to actually include young people in data collection once we have the CMS platform set up, but we’re conscious of the fact that data entry is not the most enthralling of tasks. We don’t want to put young people off the idea of getting involved in research! Instead, we’ll be working with our Young Person Steering Group to validate our approach and keep us in check with our language and tone.

In the future, we’d like charities to be able to update the data themselves, such as by amending the days and times of their services. But we’re not thinking about that at this stage due to the complexity of implementing it, and the time we have available pre-launch. Right now, we’re concentrating on seeing how much data we can find from charities’ websites and whether we need to amend our data fields.

Have you been involved in data entry yourself?

What went well, and what did you find challenging? Let us know!