BCS Geospatial SG - Usability of GIS and GI


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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 ) .
  • BCS Geospatial SG - Usability of GIS and GI

    1. 1. Maps are wonderful, but GIS are hard to use. What can we do about it? Muki Haklay M.haklay@ucl.ac.uk, Department of Civil, Environment and Geomatic Engineering, UCL
    2. 2. Outline • Maps – brief history • GIS development and the 5+ years gap • Neogeography, Web Mapping 2.0, SatNavs etc. • Geographic Information usability • Where should we go next?
    3. 3. Humans and spatial representation http://www.phil.uni-passau.de/histhw/tutcarto/english/index-hiwi- karto-en.html http://hyperbolic-crochet.blogspot.com/2010/09/talking-and-writing-about- math.html Sailing maps/Navigation charts Western Pacific Peabody Museum, Cambridge) Valcamonica, Italy. Neolithic Bronze age (6000 BCE)
    4. 4. Carved wooden coastal charts carried in their kayaks by Greenland Inuit (Eskimo) (n.d.) Courtesy of the Greenland National Museum & Archives. http://www.learner.org/courses/amerhistory/interactives/cartographic/1-2.html • Representations of geography predate the development of writing by at least 2000 years (some 20,000) • Moreover, they exist in non-literate societies, and semi- literate people routinly participate in mapping activities
    5. 5. The development of geographical representations in digital computers 1993 1990 Source: Tsue 2007
    6. 6. Early computing and GIS • First commercial application of computers (LEO I) 1951 • Harvard Laboratory for Computer Graphics 1963 (Symap) Images courtesy of Carl Steinitz
    7. 7. Geospatial technologies continue to lag... • Commercial relational DBMS (Oracle)1978 • Commercial desktop CAD (AutoCAD) 1982 • Commercial GIS (ARC/INFO) 1982 • First desktop GIS (Mapinfo) 1986 • First commercial spatial DBMS (Oracle) c. 1996
    8. 8. Why are GIS hard to use?
    9. 9. Why are GIS hard to use?
    10. 10. Why are GIS hard to use?
    11. 11. Why are GIS hard to use? • As Identified by Traynor and Williams (1995): – GIS is complex: it is based on knowledge from Geography, Cartography, Databases, Statistics, Computer algorithms and data structures… – Requires users to have or acquire considerable technical knowledge in order to operate the system • In addition, developers and vendors are focusing on functionality and not on ease of use with interfaces that are exposing the system’s structure – and not matching the user’s model Traynor and Williams (1995) ‘Why are Geographic Information Systems hard to use?’
    12. 12. Source: Skarlatidou, 2005
    13. 13. Web Mapping (1.0)
    14. 14. Source: Shand 2002
    15. 15. Web Mapping 1.0 – user issues • Some issues were caused by infrastructure: – Limited bandwidth, which was problematic for image- based information – Limited screen size • And some by designers and developers: – Copying desktop GIS to the web – Paper based cartography, scanned – Banner ads, headers – misuse of screen assets
    16. 16. Web Mapping 2.0 • Size • Response time (AJAX, pre rendered tiles) • Simplified interface • Cartography
    17. 17. Mashups ChicagoCrime.org – one of the first Google Maps Mashups
    18. 18. Web Mapping 2.0 and usability • More awareness to usability (likely influence from other areas of web practice) • Bandwidth and development practices improve User Experience • Cartography adapted to computer monitors
    19. 19. GI Usability
    20. 20. Different roles, thus different users of • System Administrator - Managing the GI in the organisation on a regular basis, deals with updates and integration of data • Developer - developing applications that use geographical information • Power user – GIS professional, use GI daily • General user – Use GIS and GI occasionally
    21. 21. Typology of users Type No. of participants Issue for GIS System Administrator Significant skills, database administration focus Developers Significant Skills, information manipulation and analysis Power users Knowledge of GIS, knowledge of GI General users Wide range of skills, limited knowledge of GIS – ‘accidental geographers’
    22. 22. System Administrator’s view of GI • Importing and managing geographic datasets • Providing GI to a wide range of users and applications • Ensuring smooth delivery and integration with a range of GIS products Source: C4
    23. 23. Case study – OS MasterMap Change-Only Update • When OS MasterMap launched, Change-Only Update was promoted as an efficient method to update local datasets – remove an old record and insert a new one • Challenges: Integration with other data layers, topology, auditing of changes, etc. • Results: specialised data products, some users prefer updating the whole set
    24. 24. Developer’s view of GI • Using GI within an application • Concerns: clarity of data structure, fitness for purpose (for example routing), impact on performances • Working with a specific system which relies on GI, not always aware that 95% of investment (and issues) is in data
    25. 25. Case study – DXF, Shapefiles, KML • Several formats were suggested for geographic information – National Transfer Format (NTF), Spatial Data Transfer Standards (SDTS), Geographic Markup Language (GML) • Yet at each period, an ad-hoc format dominates – 1990s – DXF, late 1990s – Shapefile, mid 2000s – KML • Notice that formats are not optimised but relatively easy to learn
    26. 26. Case study – APIs OSM vs. OGC WMS • OpenStreetMap API: http://api.openstreetmap.org/api/0.5/map?bbox=- 71.00,42.00,-72.00,43.00 • OGC WFS API: http://example.com/wfs? service=WFSSIMPLE&version=0.5&REQUEST=GetFeature&BBOX=- 71.00,42.00,-72.00,43.00&TIME=2006-09-12/2006-09- 22&OUTPUTFORMAT=text/xml Haklay, M. And Weber, P., 2008, OpenStreetMap – User Generated Street Map, IEEE Pervasive
    27. 27. Power user’s view of GI • Integrating data for a specific task • Familiar with GIS operations but sometime not with the semantics of the datasets (what they actually mean) • Map visualisation and presentation of datasets is quite central to the job
    28. 28. Case study – knowing what is in the data • Metadata is necessary for finding data, but more crucially for using it. Users are far more likely to use information inside the organisation than to try and find it from outside. • Maintaining metadata is not easy – even within a project! Source: MapWindow GIS
    29. 29. General user’s view of GI • GI is used as part of another task - navigation in order to get to a location, answering a request from a client about store location. • GI is seen as authoritative, factual, and up to date. • Geographic and cartographic concepts are unproblematic and/or trivial.
    30. 30. Case study – SatNav ‘A 20-year-old student's car was wrecked by a train after she followed her SatNav onto a railway track. Paula Ceely, second year student at Birmingham University was driving her Renault Clio from Redditch, Worcestershire, to see her boyfriend at his parents' home in Carmarthenshire for the first time.’ She was trying to cross the line in the dark when she heard a train horn, realised she was on the track, and the train smashed into the car.’ Http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/south_west/6646331.stm
    31. 31. Usability of GI – the needs of different users • GI is critical for geographical applications, but received little or no attention in terms of interaction design • There are different aspects for system managers, developers, power users and general users, but all require some attention from producers and providers of GI – even if the process is in-house • Developers need to be aware of these aspects
    32. 32. Usability of GI/GIS – summary • Some issues are long standing : screen size and resolution, bandwidth, interaction speed, communicating uncertainty, cartography • Need to adjust to different platforms and media • Web Mapping 2.0 applications are moving in the right directions • New issues with Geographical Information
    33. 33. Further reading • Blog: povesham.wordpress.com • Academic Publications: povesham.wordpress.com/publications/ • M.haklay@ucl.ac.uk