We created Searching for Syria to re-engage the world, giving people a fresh way to understand the Syrian crisis through data – not opinion or bias.
In 2016 alone, there were 160,000,000 search queries about Syria. We combined this data with data provided by the UNHCR to uncover the questions people were asking, then answer them in an accurate and compelling way.
We began by identifying the top 5 questions from millions of search queries; then we created a long-scroll narrative that answered each question with snackable and data-driven content. We rethought the long-form interactive stories made famous by The New York Times and The Guardian by making the experience bite-sized and fast, reflecting how people actually consume digital content today. The entire experience took about 5 minutes to get through, or roughly 60 seconds or less per question.
Searching for Syria was designed to make a complex and ubiquitous topic feel simple and human.
The human side of the crisis was brought to life using the same Google products people around the world use every day: Maps, Search, Trends and YouTube. These products were combined with data visualizations and real stories to show the world the human behind the label “refugee.”
To keep our audience engaged with such a complex subject, our creative teams worked closely with journalists who had an intimate knowledge of the crisis to write copy that was both accurate and compelling. The UX was based on the quick scrolling behavior of platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, making the experience feel familiar and easy to digest.
Built over 6 months, Searching for Syria worked seamlessly across multiple markets, devices and formats, ensuring that no matter how people read the content, their experience was seamless.
Indication of how successful the outcome was in the market
1.Over 2 million people visited the site in the first month. Average time on the site was over 4 minutes, with some visitors spending upwards of 45 minutes.
2.30% of desktop users and 20% of mobile users visited the site’s “Donate” page.
3.Nearly $250,000 has been raised to date.
4.At launch visitors spent a collective 10 years interacting with content.
5.So far the site has been shared 94,000 times across social media.
6.More than 8,000 press articles globally, including in The Verge, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, The Brussels Times and World Economic Forum.
7.The project generated the largest spike in new signatures to the #WithRefugees petition since its launch in 2016.
8.May 2017, when Searching for Syria was launched, was the second-highest viewing month for UNHCR YouTube content in the account’s history.
9.May 2017 was the highest month in history for new subscribers to UNHCR’s YouTube channel.
Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible. For this project, the brand’s role was to organize the most relevant data around the crisis and present it in a way that creates empathy and action.
Our audience is tech friendly, aspiring, curious and optimistic. They care about Syria but the subject is complex and they are saturated with confusing, contradictory and politicized points of view. They appreciate data that simplifies and clarifies, but they are emotionally exhausted by the horrors of Syria, and influencing others to care feels hard.
Our approach was to create a data-driven platform that would drive attitudinal change by presenting complex data in a relevant and sharable way. Our platform was designed to educate and inform our audience about the crisis so that they could influence their peers and the lives of the Syrian people, by sharing, donating or both.