Heather Jay Billings

is a web designer & developer,

a journalist & storyteller in Chicago.

I started building websites 17 years ago with Microsoft FrontPage and a Photoshop knockoff. My tools have gotten a lot more robust since then, but my fascination with technology never changed. My curiousity has led me to explore just about every facet of the web development process.

For the past six years, I've built web experiences related to the news, which has allowed me to work with some truly interesting problems and very smart people. I believe I've been able to further journalistic storytelling with data visualizations, robust story templates and CMS hacks. In addition to my work at the Chicago Tribune, I speak, write, teach and organize events about technology and journalism.


Though my job as a developer has me wear many hats on any given project, some are more design-heavy than others. These are the projects I have had a large design role in.


= development

= design

= project management

= user testing

Crime in Chicagoland

Designed and implemented most of the front end for a user-centric, responsive website for 13 years of crime data in Chicago.

Printers Row Lit Fest schedule

Designed and developed a responsive events schedule for the largest lit fest in Chicago. Back end runs on Google spreadsheets, cutting down the learning curve for editors.

Fuel-efficient cars

Wireframed, designed and helped develop a targeted microsite.

An empty-desk epidemic

Worked with editors and reporters to design a landing page for a multi-part investigative story about chronic school truancy.

Chicago Tribune site redesign

Helped redesign Chicago Tribune's website.


Wireframed UX for all pages and then implemented designer's mocks in WordPress.

Latino America: Immigration, status and identity

Did graphic design, including creating logo and story graphic assets. Worked with reporting fellows at ASU to design and develop the site from the ground up using WordPress.


Though I am mainly a web designer and developer, I do a little bit of everything on the product development spectrum. This is a list of my recent work, with my role(s) denoted by colored circles.


= development

= design

= project management

= user testing

Chicago Tribune user messaging bar

U.S. debt held by foreign countries

Used jqplot to implement an interactive version of a print infographic.

2011 NBA finals

Used Flot to implement an interactive version of a print infographic that evolved over several days.

writing & speaking

I blog for the Chicago Tribune News Apps team about web tech we find interesting or helpful. Sometimes, I give presentations and talks to user groups, students and journalists. Here is a sampling.

Crime in Chicagoland

Chicago Data Viz Meetup, April 23, 2014

A quick presentation on how we packaged the data, built the project and designed the resulting data dump.


NICAR, Feb. 27 - March 2, 2014

An all-day intro to Python workshop for journalists.

Lots of data on a little screen

Chicago Tribune News Apps blog, Feb. 11, 2014

How we revamped Crime in Chicagoland to make data more accessible on a small screen.

Creating compelling data visualizations

ONA Oct. 19, 2013

A blog about a talk! This one was an ONA panel with Emily Chow.

Infect the CMS

NICAR, Feb. 28 - March 3, 2013

How to funnel traffic between standalone apps and your content management system, with Jake Harris and Al Shaw.