A few years ago we worked with the Alberta Government on a tool that would make Fish Consumption Advisories more accessible to the general public. And after working its way through the government’s approvals process that tool is finally here.
One of the problems with eating fish, besides the smell it can leave in the office microwave, is that mercury accumulates in their bodies over time, and we humans don’t mix well with mercury. So you want to stay away from fish that have prodigious amounts. Luckily the government performs testing to monitor the mercury levels.
Previously if you wanted to check whether a fish you’d caught was safe to eat, you could dig down deep in the government’s website to locate the Recommended Fish Consumption Limits in Alberta PDF document. Upon opening it you would be greeted with this:
Before you get anywhere near the answer to your question there is half a page of bullet points to read through. Then you take what you’ve learned and attempt to figure out how much you can safely consume by using the somewhat awkward table below.
Make it Simple
Having fished for your meal, we wanted to save you fishing through this document for answers. So we set about designing a mobile app to make the experience simple. To start, we determined there were three pieces of information needed to get you the information you want: Where you caught it, what species it was, and how much it weighed. Then we just asked those questions.
An image of the fish along with its full name, makes it much easier to identify the species. Once you’ve picked your fish, we can reduce the list of lakes to choose from considerably, showing only lakes for which there is relevant data. Fewer choices means you get to the answers you want quicker. And a simple yes or no on the weight threshold for your choice will take you to the advisory.
Special care was taken to ensure the advisory results were clear and easy to understand. The original table had confusing labels. “Women” didn’t refer to all women just those between the ages of 15 and 49. And 12-year-old adults only added to the confusion. We altered the labeling for clarity.
Color was previously used to indicate that an advisory was an “addition to the table” with these new records in bold and red, making them more prominent and scary than the other records. For the user, however, these records are no more important than any of the others. In the app we used color to differentiate the level of warning instead, applying a familiar, but color-blind friendly, red–yellow–green color scale.