Data Interface Critique

Basic Requirements

  • Needs to be a separate PAGE on your portfolio, NOT a blog post
  • ~800 words, but the quality is far more important than the quantity
  • Judicious use of subheadings to delineate your main topics
  • Clear, concise, and meaningful writing (no fluff!)
  • Must include at least 4 screenshots of what you’re critiquing
  • Reflect critically on what you’re doing using course readings. This is not optional–the point of the readings is that you can use them!

Goals of critiques

Like any critique or review, you should:

  • Provide some summary of the main features / functionality
  • Note stated or apparent intended audience
  • Make it clear what the goals of the project are
  • Evaluate how well the various facets of the website (design, organization, writing style, interface, functionality) facilitate its intended goals for its audience
  • Note aspects that work well
  • Note aspects that need improvement (and why!)
  • Remember to incorporate our readings from earlier in the semester (yes in fact there was a reason we read all those!)
  • Contemplate about how maps, databases, interfaces, and visualizations shape the kinds of (historical) interpretations the website is meant to facilitate.

What’s behind the curtain?

Your essay should not simply answer these questions one by one. Think about them holistically as you begin formulating and drafting your critique.

  • What are the original sources? How accessible does the site make them?
  • How easy is it to see where the data comes from and gets represented?
  • Do you get a sense what data exists and what doesn’t?
  • How might the interface/visualization be misleading?
  • How is the design working for or against the purposes of the site?


  • Avoid writing a ‘process narrative’—that is, a description of “First I clicked this, then I clicked that, but it didn’t work, so I clicked something else.” Nobody cares what you clicked on.
  • Organize your critiques by the particular points you want to make (this helps you avoid a rambling or process-narrative critique).
  • Don’t miss the forest for the trees. Whatever your particular experience may have been, you should always remember that people reading your review are looking for the big picture (the forest), not particular details (the trees).