Behind the Scenes of BBC’s “Most Wanted Global Migrants” Guide


By Roberto Belo Rovella and Camilla Costa, BBC journalists. 

BBC Global News recently published a special report on Global Migrants, featuring a clickable guide in which the users can explore the 20 most wanted professions across a selection of 30 countries, including those of the OECD, BRICS and Singapore. The project, published in English and other 11 languages, is the result of an investigation by BBC Brasil’s journalist Camilla Costa.

This idea was pitched in the context of a training scheme, to give journalists the time and space to develop their data and visual journalism skills, working hand in hand with other editorial, design and development staff from the Online Specials Team. Camilla led the research and production effort, with Designer Nour Saab, Client Side Developer Martyn Rees and Editor Roberto Belo-Rovella.

The investigation about highly skilled migration focuses on the professions most sought after and how the countries surveyed are changing their legislation to facilitate and manage the admission of those professionals.

The visual guide invites the users to select the profession they are more curious about, to find out which countries are seeking those professionals and then more information about the country in question in the context of migration.

The database compiled confirms the ongoing demand for health professionals, especially nurses, and also the increase in the need for engineering and IT professionals all over the world. But it also shows some surprising facts, such as a demand for chefs, psychologists and even technicians such as radiographers.

How We Went About It

We used data about the migration policies of the OECD countries from the International Migration Outlook 2012 and other OECD reports and lists of professions in demand obtained from Migration Departments and Labour Ministries of the 30 countries explored in this graphic.

Market overviews and surveys were also used for some countries, as well as the data compiled in the European Job Mobility Portal (EURES).

The big challenge was to compile all this information in a consistent way, as the definitions of "highly skilled professions" and their categorizations varied country by country. In many cases we had to request specific information and clarifications directly to government offices in the surveyed countries. The footnotes and methodology story offer detailed information on how it's all worked out, and the full dataset compiled about wanted professions per country.

The research and data compilation took about six weeks. The formatting, design and build took the other six weeks, including the creation of a master version in English and the localisation of the content for 11 other languages.

For compiling and formatting the information we used spreadsheets, mainly Google Documents. Middle East Adobe CS kit was used for mocking up ideas and finalising designs. To be more specific, Illustrator was used to chart the migration flows based on the data provided by the journalists, lay out the other bits of content around it and mark it up for the final hand-over to developers.

Photoshop was used for exporting graphics and preparing assets for the developers. The graphs were supplied in SVG format. In terms of build, HTML and CSS was used for the layout and Javascript to load and display the 50 graphs and also for the interactivity.

Looking Back

The Most Wanted Global Migrants clickable guide and its related content were welcome by the audience, with almost one million page views on the first two days after being published on the BBC News website Business index in English. On Twitter, there were more than 1,400 messages recommending it, and the Migration Unit within the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations also promoted the guide.

It is always a challenge to strike the right balance between being fully comprehensive and presenting the facts in a way that is simple, intuitive for the non-academic or specialised user. We know that online users have very little time to spend, and if they are not immediately attracted to what you have to say online, off they go.

Therefore, once we were clear about what data was actually available to use, and we decided on the story we wanted to tell, they key was to stay focused on that story, and to put the users at its centre.

Would we do it in a different way if we had a second chance? Possibly yes, maybe simpler, maybe more playful, maybe thinking more about mobile devices and responsive design, maybe doing more on the social sphere beyond being able to share information about professions in a particular country on Facebook and Twitter. A big bag of lessons for the next project, no doubt; those lessons that you can only harvest after giving it a proper go.