Site review: Google Flu Trends

I first heard about Google Flu Trends a few years back when the tool first came out. Basically Google looks at all the people all over the world searching for the term ‘flu’ using its search engine (and probably some related terms like ‘influenza’). Because it can tell where users are and can see in real time when there’s a sudden spike in the number of people searching ‘flu’, Google can tell when and where there’s a flu outbreak.

They use Javascript and (of course) Google maps, and their user interface is pretty nice:

The screenshot above shows data for the whole US. There’s a timeline showing the incidence of flu from month to month for each year since 2005-2006, and you can toggle different years on and off. If you hover over any state on the interactive map, a little info window pops up that gives you the basic information on the current flu incidence in that state. The window follows your cursor and changes as you move from state to state, so you never have to click to see anything. If you do want more information on a specific state though, you can click on it, and the graph at the top will change to only show data for that one state. I really like how the map and the chart complement each other. Like most of Google’s products, it’s clean, simple and intuitive.

You can also click to switch from looking at states to major cities. If you hover over a metro region, a zoomed-in map pops up to show the different cities within the region.

I think this is a great model for any of us looking at state-by-state data or looking at trends over time.

Web development: 5 new metro stops

I propose extending the current Metro Purple Line west down Wilshire Boulevard. Four new stops would be added along Wilshire; the line would terminate at a fifth new stop in Century City. Each of these five stops serves a busy hub with office space, shopping and cultural destinations.

In designing this I would have liked the text in the info windows to be formatted differently, and specifically for the title to appear as a bold header with the rest of the text below (and limited to a fixed width). I’d also like one info window to disappear when you click on anything else. I’m guessing we’ll learn how to do all that with CSS. Lastly I’d like to know how to break long text strings within the code across lines so it’s easier to read.