As the impact of the coronavirus started unfolding across the United States in March 2020, it became clear there was a strong need for a trusted source of factual information to make sense of data, collect information from experts, and provide verified resources to help empower people to make decisions for themselves and their families as the global pandemic seismically disrupted our lives.
CNN saw an opportunity to provide that service to users who were overwhelmed by a public health crisis impacting them personally and locally. Reporting revealed policy and resources were being managed differently state to state and city to city, and users were trying to make sense of a lot of data and understand what it meant.
In response, a cross-functional group of technologists, designers, and content creators developed CNN 411 — a public service utility that gathers, organises, and curates data and information to serve user needs. CNN 411 offers personalised resources and expertise based on an individual’s location and demographics, then delivers it in a simple and direct way.
CNN 411 responded to user needs by answering the questions: What does coronavirus mean for me and my loved ones in the places we live? Are we OK? How do we stay OK? What do we do if we’re not OK? What does disruption to life look like? And when will things go back to normal?
Data-driven resources get personal
By simply entering a ZIP code, users get a personalised, data-driven coronavirus resources in their community, including specific real-time information around confirmed cases and deaths by ZIP code, as well as resources to getting help for those who are sick, quarantined, caring for others, or out of work and in need of local unemployment assistance.
A statewide list of closures outlines school, restaurant, travel, and stay-at-home order status in a clear and easily digestible way. Health information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides facts about symptoms to watch for and ways the virus could be transmitted, working to eliminate fears and ground people in the information they need to make the best decisions.
The tool also provides expertise and authority from CNN’s Coronavirus Town Halls and guests, linking to resources and CNN original content featuring trusted names like Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and more.
And while staying inside and staying healthy are the most crucial ways to stave off this outbreak, CNN’s Impact Your World compiled a list of donation opportunities and tips to help those affected by the crisis, which are outlined for users in each region. Visitors can also see a list of verified organisations across sectors from arts and culture to medical to education to mental health to donate to within their communities if they are able and want to do so.
Staying relevant as conditions change
As the details around coronavirus rapidly change from hour to hour, we wanted to make sure the tool remains relevant for users. CNN surveyed our users weekly to make sure the features we prioritised in the development of the tool matched user needs as the story unfolded over weeks and months. We continue to add and grow the tool as time evolves.
While this global pandemic took everyone by surprise, we were glad we could pull resources together and quickly create a viable product to inform, engage, and empower our users to make the best decisions for themselves based on facts.