To help its business-focused readers make one of the most important personal and professional decisions of their lives, Bloomberg merged old school reporting with iterative design and data visualization to modernize Bloomberg Businessweek’s Best B-Schools rankings. This personalized tool presented in-depth, rich information in ways easy to consume and distinguished itself from other rankings.
The design challenge was to offer readers as much useful information as possible without overwhelming them. So the site functions more like a tool. The design looks simple and inevitable now, but that’s only in hindsight and is a credit to its success.
As editors began building wireframes, they used business schools as focus groups. The feedback culminated in the creation of an unconventional landing page and opportunities for readers to personalize the ranking, compare any two schools and dive deep on any one school. The design put schools in context with unique Bloomberg data to answer burning questions like which industries are fed by which schools, and how much money do graduates earn in each field.
What makes this project innovative?
Rather than assign weightings to various indexes, as most rankings do, Bloomberg let students, alumni and MBA recruiters rank what was most important to them about business school. The result was four new indexes—Compensation, Networking, Learning, and Entrepreneurship—that capture the essence of the business school education. Those goals became the foundation of Bloomberg’s new methodology. Bloomberg editors interviewed deans and staff at 43 business schools. Early conversations made clear that millennial students have widely divergent needs, so Best B-Schools had to be easily customizable. For the first time Bloomberg published unique diversity data showing the climate for women and other traditionally underrepresented groups. To give a flavor of what it’s like to attend each school that aggregated survey data alone couldn’t provide, we collected students’ and alumni’s comments on their own business schools. Editors used natural-language processing to identify representative comments from students and alumni on what’s best at each school. The results are illuminating.
What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?
Presenting useful, customizable information to prospective students was the goal, and traffic surged. Page views climbed 71 percent year to year and average time spent on the new site climbed to over 4 minutes a user. Think about how long 4 minutes is in today’s world. Two other leading news organizations that rank MBA programs are exploring significant changes to how they rank schools and present data. Bloomberg was the catalyst, according to schools that participate in all three.
Source and methodology
Please see our methodology session: https://www.bloomberg.com/business-schools/2018/methodology
Svelt framework. Natural language processing. D3 library for visualization
Caleb Solomon, Yue Qiu, Julian Burgess, Mathieu Benhamou, Alexander McIntyre, Cindy Hoffman, Dean Halford, Brittany Harris, Cedric Sam, Laurie Meisler and Jennifer Prince