The best of the Times Interactive team

Basile Simon
Jul 30, 2018 · 10 min read

While we try to get a coveted thetimes.co.uk/interactives spot, here is a selection of our favourite bespoke projects, involving several that have involved collaboration with the rest of the newsroom and wider Digital team.


Moon landing

What could have gone wrong with the Apollo 11 mission

As part of the Times coverage of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing the interactive team looked at what could have gone wrong with the Apollo 11 mission.

From touching down on the moon with just 25 seconds of fuel remaining to Buzz Aldrin replacing a broken switch with a pen, the crew relied on an extraordinary level of mathematics, rigorous testing and above all good fortune against the unforgiving realities of manned spaceflight.

To create the project we worked closely with the design department to create a visually-rich piece, including animated SVGs which helped explain the various parts of the first and only mission to put man on the moon.


Britain’s “slums of the future”

Landlords make millions from flats the size of a parking space

A Times investigation revealed that housing developers have been exploiting a change in planning rules to convert offices into hundreds of flats, some as small as 14 square meters (150 sq ft). We used floor-plans from planning documents combined with official government regulations to illustrate just how small these new studios are.


Bivariate Map

Next PM urged to help low‑skilled workers

We worked with Red Box editor Matt Chorley and the Tory modernising think tank Onward to create a bivariate map highlighting the correlation between places that voted Leave in the EU referendum and areas vulnerable to job automation.

By combining data from the 2011 census with industrial statistics and probabilities of automation compiled by the ONS, we revealed that 48 of the 50 areas most at risk of job automation voted to leave in the 2016 referendum and 42 of the 50 areas least at risk voted remain.


Could you be a tennis line umpire?

Could you be a tennis line judge?

Could you be a tennis line judge? The latest in our series of our sports games places the reader at the heart of the action on Centre court, using a collection of close tennis line calls to see if they can decide whether the ball is in or out.


Could you be the speaker in the House of Commons?

Could you be the speaker in the House of Commons?

To mark the 10 year anniversary of John Bercow’s time as Speaker we asked the Times’s brilliant cartoonist Morten Morland to animate a series of scenarios from the Erskine May to see if readers could tell what is allowed and not allowed in the House of Commons.

How did readers get on? Everybody who played it got at least one question right — including Jacob Rees-Mogg — but just three per cent of players scored 10/10.The second question was the hardest, with only 25 per cent of readers correctly judging whether or not you can wear hats in the Commons (play the game yourself to find out the answer to that one).


Air pollution

The Interactive team was at the forefront of the Times’ #CleanAirForAll campaign, with multiple bespoke projects featured in our coverage.

London air pollution mapped: how does your child’s school compare?

Our schools analysis led our reporting and featured on the front page for the first day of the campaign. To calculate the London schools air pollution database, we combined 20m by 20m pollution data with the shape files for every school in the capital to create a ‘score’ for each school. The results revealed that every school in London breached the WHO daily guideline of 10ug/m³. More than half of the 3,200 schools in our database were searched at least once in the interactive.

Air pollution postcode checker: What is the level near me?

With our national dashboard we set out to answer the following question: how bad is the air you breathe? Using government estimates of particulate pollution for every square kilometre in Great Britain we were able to match postcodes to pollution levels, enabling readers to see how their neighbourhood compares to the rest of the country. The dashboard contextualises the results by converting them into the equivalent number of cigarettes. We also return a recommendation for where a reader could move to find cleaner air.

How do we make the air in our cities breathable?

After exploring air pollution levels in Britain our attention turned to solutions. Air quality is at its worst in cities so we looked at how urban areas could adapt, setting out to answer the question: how do we make the air in our cities breathable? We looked at the scale of the problem in London before analysing how other European cities had been transformed, finally rebuilding Marylebone road with the emphasis on clean air.


Estate agent investigation

Which estate agents overvalue properties the most in your area?

An investigation by the interactive team analysed more than 200,000 property listings and found that some of the country’s biggest estate agents are overvaluing homes by tens of thousands of pounds.

Readers were able to find out which agents had the biggest price reductions in their area using our postcode lookup.


US government shutdown

Trump’s state of the union address called off over shutdown

Our government shutdown chart was in high demand and featured for both The Times and the Sunday Times. We continuously updated it throughout the shutdown, which became the longest in US history, resulting in a lot of updating of scales and tweaking of words.


How many crimes were committed in your neighbourhood?

How many crimes were committed in your neighbourhood?

We tweaked and re-ran our police data postcode lookup, this time focusing on violent crimes and sexual offences in the neighbourhoods you care about.

To do this we downloaded three years worth of street-level police data and grouped it by lower super output area and local authority. We took the total number of violent crimes in 2018 and used mid-year population estimates to calculate violent crime rates which we visualised with a barcode chart.


Tax haven billionaires

Tax investigation: A third of British billionaires have moved to a tax haven

The interactive team were at the heart of the tax investigation which revealed that a third of British billionaires have moved to tax havens. We built a tool allowing readers to discover more information about the 28 billionaires featured in the investigation, with readers able to sort the data by location and industry.

We also worked with the data team to create a map revealing the vast swathes of land in England and Wales controlled by billionaires living abroad: 8,000 plots covering 120,000 acres, including airports and Premier League stadiums. This became the centrepiece of the Times coverage on day three of the investigation, running both digitally and across a double-page spread in the paper.


The people vs the Oscars

The people vs the Oscars

What do cinema lovers think of Bafta and Oscar nominations for best picture? To find out, we looked at millions of ratings on the movie website IMDb for hundreds of films over the past 50 years. We also ran this in stories about the Bafta best-picture award the following week.


Read more about how we’ve tackled Brexit

Brexit vote(s)

We built a reusable Brexit vote interactive that allowed readers to see the overall result for each amendment but also how their MP had voted. It has become particularly useful given the number of votes that have taken place so far this year. The interactive has been placed in all relevant stories, and due to their popularity the charts have had great exposure with a really engaged audience. For the vote of no-confidence, 21% of users searched for an MP — a great percentage given that it is a secondary function.


January transfer window: every Premier League signing and sale

January transfer window

Our January transfer window interactive could be tailored to any football club, giving the sports desk the ability to default the interactive to a specific club depending on the story. Reading an article about Mauricio Pochettino being linked with Manchester United? Let’s default our interactive in the piece to Tottenham so you can see just how little money they’ve spent over the past few years…


The Brexit flowchart

Find out what will happen to May’s deal

From a drawing on the back of an envelope to a double-page spread and a full interactive flowchart, we brought to life Henry Zeffman’s explanation of what could happen to Brexit and Theresa May ahead of the December 11 vote on her deal.


Armistice centenary

How The Times reported the Armistice

The Times and Sunday Times’s coverage of Armistice was months in the making and a cross-title mobilisation of resources on a huge scale. Our standout digital projects made the most of our archive and included an annotated version of The Times newspaper published on November 12 1918, the colourising of black and white photos of celebrations around the country and the retelling of the Hundred Days Offensive using maps published 100 years ago.


Storm Florence

Read our explainer on Hurricane Florence

Plenty of maps, updated twice a day, as Florence made its way to the east cost of the United States.


Half of divorced women happier without a man

Divorce survey

Our first collaboration with the Sunday Times Style section, and another two-day project aiming at making of a few of the piece’s top lines more personal.


NHS at 70

Read Your memories of the NHS

The NHS celebrated its 70th anniversary in July 2018. We celebrated the UK’s love/hate relationship with the institution with two bespoke projects.

We set up a phone voicemail for our readers to share their stories of the NHS. We picked the most interesting stories and built a bespoke storytelling template with a scrolling audio player to bring them to life.


How does my hospital compare?

See How your hospital compares

After weeks of research and compiling data, we built a page for readers to compare their hospital and NHS trust to the rest of the country.


Unsolved crimes

Read How many crimes go unsolved in your local authority

This Sunday Times splash about poor police performance was a result of a collaboration with the data team – and we got our postcode searcher out of the cupboard, packing a mapping of LSOA results and a comparison with the whole of the country.


LBW or not?

The latest in our series of news-games! This time, our readers are placed in the boots of a cricket umpire and have to decide if a batsman should be given out LBW.

A continuation on the theme of sports games we started last year with our offside or not assistant referee simulator.


Read Child slave gangs go free

Modern slavery

A prime example of a quick-turnaround bespoke project, putting your guess of how many slaves there are in Britain against official estimates — and other readers’ guesses.


Read our pre-coverage of the Italian election

Italy votes

Silvio Berlusconi’s return to Italian politics led to a lot of interest in the March 2018 election.

We produced a comprehensive and visual pre-coverage, as well as a detailed analysis comparing demographic factors with the populist part Five Star Movement’s results.


Read about the president’s social behaviour

The Trump vocabulary

As long as Donald Trump only picks fights on Twitter… but just exactly how did his catchphrases and hashtags come about during the primary, election campaign, and his presidency?

The Data team studied President Trump’s Twitter vocabulary from 2014.


The Star Wars Quiz

Take our comedic guide to intergalactic politics to work out where you stand on the side of dark and light.


See The fall of Islamic State

The fall of Islamic State in maps

A successful collaboration with our Graphics department to show how the Islamic State’s territorial gains and losses have changed over the so-called caliphate’s lifespan.


Brexit explained: the progress so far and what happens next

Brexit explained

Taking the reader through all the essential need-to-knows of Brexit, updated as the national conversation has continued.


Why does Putin always win?

Why does Putin always win?

Putin’s hold on Russian politics has shown no signs of weakening: he was re-elected president in 2018. Our teams explain why and how.


General election 2017

Six weeks to build an election page and pre-coverage from the ground up was not a walk in the park. But we had it all:

  • A daily briefing written by our top political commentators featuring data from a selected constituency;
  • A results page, updating live, at the top of the website.

Digital Times

Stories from the digital team at The Times and Sunday Times

Basile Simon

Written by

Interactive journalism nerdery @thetimes + data-journalist @airwars + lecturer in Interactive Journalism @cityjournalism

Digital Times

Stories from the digital team at The Times and Sunday Times