One Year On – Student’s Covid-19 Tracking Website Reaches Milestone

This time last year, Argyll College UHI student, John Frace created a Covid-19 tracking website as the virus began to spread across Scotland. Little did he imagine, a year down the line, that he’d still be updating the website daily.

The page - Travelling Tabby Scotland Coronavirus Tracker, which was founded on 14th March 2020, has attracted national news coverage, including features in The Herald and The Times and appearances on the BBC. The site has garnered acclaim from scientific experts and has a rapidly growing user base. To date, the website has received over 14.5 million views, with over 1,000 people logging on every day at 3pm for the update. As a result, John’s also seen a huge growth in his social media following.

“On Twitter, I’m up to 22,300 followers! There have been quite a few ‘famous’ people who have followed me on there too, which certainly adds a lot of pressure to not make any mistakes or typos. Recently the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon followed me, which was a little surreal to see!”

But the acclaim does not come without its pressures. When asked how long he spends updating the website, John estimates it takes around “3-4 hours a day.” Not only does he update the statistical data but also spends time “doing additional analysis, making improvements, replying to emails and replying to people on Twitter.”

The page first gained traction through paying particular attention to Scottish statistics, sourced from Scottish Government data and the Public Health Scotland report. From the outset, this is what differentiated it from other trackers. But from its humble beginnings, significant developments have seen the website grow, both in its offering and audience.

It now has a separate page for analysis of the UK wide situation, allowing comparisons to be made between all four nations and international data, as well as a separate page analysing additional death data in great detail. The most positive development, however, has to be the recent inclusion of the vaccination data, to which John says, “I’d been excited about doing that for months, so it was great to finally be able to do it.”

With the UK now starting to show signs of improvement John expects to see a decrease in demand for the site. “As the case and death numbers continue to fall, the pandemic stops being such an important part of our lives, and we can stop feeling like we need to constantly be aware of the situation.”

However, that’s not to say it will be the end of the website. John feels that “with the amount of people relying on it each day, I couldn’t in good conscience just stop updating it.” The plan instead is to reduce the frequency of updates with a move from daily to weekly. Even when the pandemic is completely over the pages won’t be deleted, but instead changed to reflect the situation as a whole, rather than a review of the current situation.

John, who is based in Dunoon, is currently studying for a Business and Management BA (Hons) with the University of the Highlands and Islands. In 2020, he completed a HNC in Digital Design and Web Development at Argyll College UHI which he praises for the success of his website. “It didn’t teach me how to code an entire website from the ground up, but it did teach me the basics. And more importantly, it had a big focus on web design and what makes a good website good.”

Argyll College Principal, Martin Jones said, “John’s commitment to this project is commendable. He has displayed a great deal of professionalism and stamina to not only keep the website updated, but to develop it into the marvellous resource which it now is, and at the same time, continuing with his degree studies. We are all extremely proud of John and of what he has achieved.”

The website is not for profit, but if you think John deserves some recognition for his efforts, you can ‘buy him a coffee’ here.