When Vox’s team set out to build an election forecast, their model predicted a Republican win. They had built a “fundamental model”: a model that relies on things like the state of the economy, the president’s approval rating, and more. Once you factor in current polls, however, the data tells a different story. As of August 11, the Huffington Post's Pollster average had Clinton leading, with a two-party popular vote share of 54.3 percent.
This then led to the idea of the Trump Tax: the gap between where Donald Trump should be according to the estimate from the fundamentals model and where he actually is according to a polls-based model. You can read more about the evolution of the story on Vox.
Because we were no longer creating a traditional election forecast, we had a different set of problems to solve: How do we display the “Trump Tax” in a way that is clear? How do we visually represent what it means? How do we make users want to return to the site to check the Trump Tax? How do we encourage users to share the Trump Tax?
Design for known user behavior
From the beginning of the project, we knew we wanted a prominent design that would be visually impressive as well as engaging to people who landed on the page. Over the course of the project, the design evolved from a more traditional representation of an election forecast to its final form: a representation of how poorly Donald Trump is doing in this election.
When you search Twitter for other election forecasts, like The New York Times’, or FiveThirtyEight’s, you can see people are taking screenshots of the various graphics they’ve updated. We knew that we wanted to design something that would encourage people to return to the site, as well as grab a screenshot and share it on social media.
When you land on the Vox page, you get a large overview of how far behind Donald Trump is polling compared to where the Republican nominee is expected to be. Javier Zarracina, Vox’s Graphics Editor, illustrated two portraits of Donald Trump: one for larger screen sizes and one for smaller screens.
Because our goal was to encourage people to screenshot the top of the page, I made sure to incorporate Vox’s branding so that it’d be visible when shared. On desktop, I moved the share buttons below the hero, so they wouldn’t be visible in the screen capture. We wanted to indicate that this data was being updated daily, so I included the time of the last update in the design.
The approach we’re taking is simple: understand user behavior, and craft experiences that optimize for that, rather than trying to change how people behave.