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BCS Geospatial SG - Usability of GIS and GI

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Slides from a talk at the BCS on the 10th November 2010

Slides from a talk at the BCS on the 10th November 2010

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  • As a result of all these changed the user experience changed dramatically. From click, wait for rendering, get a reply on a very small area, to slippy map, direct manipulation. Important to remember that it wasn’t Google who first introduce slippy maps – it was search.ch – a Swiss site (October 2004).
  • The crimemaps, or the early Google Mashup, are examples for shallow technical hacking. We don’t really change Google Maps and we screen scrape data, but the innovation is in the integration .
  • This is a very interesting aspect of usability which many times is overlooked. When looking at a GIS or a component of geotechnology, it is worth evaluating its usability for different audiences. With software, I would differentiate between ‘end-user’, ‘programmer’ and ‘system manager’ usability. For each of these archetypes it is possible to evaluate if the package is easy to use for this role. For example, programmer usability can be evaluated by examining how long does it takes for a programmer to learn how to manipulate the system and perform a tasks with it. The new generation of APIs such as those that are used by OpenStreetMap or Google Maps are very ‘programmer’ usable – it takes very little time to learn them and achieve something useful with the system. The installation of Manifold GIS, therefore, scores high on system manager usability, but low on end-user usability – and, importantly, there are far more of the latter than the former. Some small changes to the website with a clear installation guide can improve the situation significantly, but a real change to the installation process that will remove the need to switch to the administrator account is the real solution.
  • The interesting aspect is to note how many potential users there are at each level. As we go up, there are less potential users. There are outstanding issues at each level.
  • In addition to the hacking, there are these beautiful, elegant solution to long standing interoperability issue. Just look at how simple is it to someone to get data from OSM. And it is also very easy to understand what you get back. When you do it with OGC data it is first of all complex, and the reply is in GML, so you’ve got quite a learning curve to go through before you can use. The fact is that during Katrina in 2005 there was a wide use of mashups (Miller 2006) but OGC admit failure in their newsletter. This is even more astonishing when realising that the OGC WMS testbed was about hurricane in the gulf of Mexico ... (look at OGC specification http://cite.opengeospatial.org/OGCTestData/wms/1.1.1/spec/wms1.1.1.html ) .