BBC Earth is the BBC’s natural history brand. It seeks to inspire audiences by sharing the incredible wonders of our universe.
They wanted a fully personalised and interactive website. And they wanted it to provide users with a never-before-seen look at their body, from what it’s made of to what it’s produced, and how you can count it all.
Our bodies are truly extraordinary. And with the complexity of a human body at our disposal, we knew it would be vital to keep sight of the concept of ‘quantified self’. So, we focused on the phrase ‘Know yourself by the numbers’.
This would be our most personal piece to date. We added four variables for the user to select at the start of the piece: age, gender, height and weight. This meant we’d be able to show personalised data on a truly cellular level.
We wanted to harness a sense of childlike curiosity. Like, have you ever wondered how many times you’ve blinked? How far your intestines could stretch? Or the amount of gas you’ve produced? That kind of thing. This made up the bulk of conversations in the studio for some time, before choosing the final areas to research.
Our favourite was working out how to quantify the amount of gas you’ve produced (and expelled…) in your lifetime. How would we measure their volume in a meaningful way? We toyed with the ideas of using zorbs, before settling on telephone boxes…
After reviewing and researching human biology and chemistry, we nailed our shortlist of themes. For example, ‘Body Shop’, in which we quantified the commercial value of our chemical make-up. While in ‘Body Builder’ we covered how much our bodies had grown and produced. Each of the stories or modules in these themes was shareable.
We always like to make our work as editorially rich as possible, in this case by way of witty or unexpected additions. For example, how many matchsticks could be made from the sulphur found in me? (Answer: millions.) And, how many microbes am I carrying? (Answer: trillions.) In this piece, we even added the weight of our souls…
We worked closely with our clients at the BBC to offer a grown-up but fun feel. We used some light-touch animation to illustrate different data points, and to keep the page feeling ‘alive’.
We brought in elements of the BBC’s Global Experience Language (GEL) guidelines, to ensure this piece fitted seamlessly into the overall site.
The piece had to work as well on mobile as a larger device, and a modular structure for the piece was the answer. On mobile, the piece formed neat stacks of content for the user to explore.
Including sources or footnotes is the norm for us – we want to be open and let people probe and examine our sources for themselves. But, as this was one of our most research-heavy pieces, we turbocharged the transparency, with info buttons on each module to allow users to see the sources and calculations.
We also provided a full list of sources and methodology, for those users who really like to get into the detail.
We concluded the piece in a summary called ‘My vital statistics’. Users could see their ‘best ofs’. For example, how long their hair would’ve grown if left uncut in their lifetime, or (yuk) their toenails, to the final price tag reflecting what their constituent parts could add up to.