Your Life On Earth

Ever wondered how many times your heart has beaten in your lifetime? Or how much the world’s sea level has risen? Now you can find out, thanks to a great interactive data visualisation by Information is Beautiful promoting BBC Earth’s new website.

Ever wondered how many times your heart has beaten in your lifetime? Or how much the world’s sea level has risen? Now you can find out, thanks to a great interactive data visualisation by Information is Beautiful promoting BBC Earth’s new website.

The interactive, which launched today and has already proved popular on Twitter, asks visitors to enter their height, gender and date of birth before presenting them with a dashboard of stats relating to their time on earth.

The first section, How you have changed, lists facts about users’ age on different planets, how many times their heart has beaten and how many generations of family an animal the same age would have had.

The second, How the world has changed, lists environmental changes and events in users’ lifetimes – from solar eclipses to major earthquakes and population increase – while the third reflects on changes humans have made to the world.

In the 25 years since I was born, 232.5 million hectares of forest has been lost and the Antarctic ozone hole has increased by 11 million km², but it’s not all bad – black rhinos were saved from extinction and the global supply of beer per person has increased.

At the bottom of the page, a section titled ‘How the BBC captured it all’ plays a selection of clips from BBC Earth shows past and present, from Planet Earth to Big Cat Diaries.

As well as being fun, easy to use and educational, it’s a clever way of promoting the BBC’s new site and showcasing archived content. The visualisation also makes some serious comments on global warming, endangered species and natural resources.

“Matt Walker [editor for BBC Earth] came up with the concept of doing something looking back in time, and we had the idea of this dashboard style presentation,” explains Duncan Swain, creative partner at Information is Beautiful.

“We really wanted to structure it around three key strands: how humanity has changed, how our world has changed and man’s impact on earth, which I think encapsulates [BBC Earth’s] content,” he adds.

The interactive took around three months to create, with a team of 12 including developers, researchers and editorial staff. “There was a variety of different components to the process – coming up with the concept itself and what we wanted to portray through the data, followed by the research, which we did in-house, the sketching phase and finally, the design,” says Swain. “Every individual element had to be carefully considered – from the titles of each box to the text that appears when you Tweet it.”

The site contains over 20 visualisations and most have variables – as well as viewing how the population has changed in their lifetime, users can view life expectancy, or see the number of volcanic eruptions instead of earthquakes. They can also choose from a drop down list of planets when checking their space age, or creatures that have been discovered since they were born.

The design of the dashboard reflects BBC Earth’s new branding, which is now more in line with the broadcaster’s digital iwonder service, though Swain says some adjustments had to be made as the interactive was built on a different platform.

The most complicated aspect of the process, he says, was clearly communicating complex data without oversimplifying the facts. “We didn’t want to trivialise things, or they could end up just coming out wrong, so you’re walking that tight rope between making it easy to understand whilst still being accurate,” he explains.

“Another challenge was researching historical data – it was quite difficult to get hold of some things, and correlate them with today’s data, making sure all of the calculations and algorithms were correct.”

Try the site for yourself here.

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