Delivering What Users Need
For Web GIS Applications
Craig Robinson
February 10, 2014
Credentials
Running alongside Esri since 1999
1000+ customers and partners worldwide
Configurable software to manage their...
Pre 2000
Any sort of GIS or digital mapping
was the domain of GIS
professionals
Post 2000
GIS starts moving to the web
2005
Enter Consumer Maps
Simple street maps, providing
directions and locations
GIS Web Technology

Professional
GIS
GIS Pros

Consumer
Mapping
General
Public
Intranet vs. Internet

Private
Intranet

Public
Internet
The 90%
90% of users only need
their map to answer 1 or 2 questions
The need for targeted apps became
clear
The Key Question
What questions do they want
answered?
Pushing for Targeted Apps
Pushing for Targeted Apps
Never Mistake a Clear View
for a Short Distance
Just because the answer is
clear, does not mean it’s easy.
Just because th...
Consumer - Producer
Balance

Producers

Consumers

Want it easy to Want it easy to
create and
understand and
maintain
expe...
Potential Producer
Nightmare
Map Services
Database Connections
Custom Tools
Viewer
Application

Security
Integration

Cust...
Technology Rewrites
ArcIMS  Web ADF
Web ADF  REST

Flex  Silverlight  HTML5
ArcGIS Server  ArcGIS Online
The Constant of Change
Architect for change.
This is easy to say,
but requires the right:
development patterns,
applicatio...
An Approach

Spatial Application Infrastructure
Hosted Services

Map Server

Security

Integration

Hosted Data

Feature S...
Consumer App Explosion

goo.gl/KanOpG
Do we banish Portals?
The Other 10%
10% of your users are power
users, and provide 95% of the
value to your organization
As Simple As Possible
But No More
We should continually push to
make things as simple as possible
Some things are complex ...
Portals serve a need

goo.gl/RGGmuS
Explore and Discover
Give your users a chance
and they may surprise you
Principles for Design
Understand
Adopt
Explore
Discover
The Right Tools

$
4 Lessons Learned
What Questions Do They Need
Answered?
What questions do your users need
answered?
Give them what they need before
you try ...
Build for Adoption
Allow for Exploration
Build applications that are easy to
understand, yet allow for
exploration and dis...
Consider Technology
Change
Plan for technology changes with
development patterns and
infrastructure that can absorb
those ...
Serve the Masses
Remember the Explorers
90% of users need to answer 1 or 2
questions.
The power users that make up the
oth...
Thank you
crobinson@latitudegeo.com
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Scarc2014 delivering what users need - c robinson

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  • Today I’m going to talk about web mapping, and specifically about delivering what end users need.
  • Just to give you some background in terms of my credentials for being up here today, I’m from Latitude Geographics, the company that makes Geocortex software, which runs alongside Esri web mapping technology.We’re based in Victoria, Canada, and we’ve got 1000+ customers around the world that use our COTS products to build and maintain their apps.But I’m not here to talk about our company, I’m here to talk about ideas.Even if you never end up working with us or using our stuff, my goal today is to share useful information that applies universally. So let’s get right into it.
  • We look at our job as being to maximize the potential of geographic information so people can make better decisions. This is my firm’s mantra, but I think it probably extends and applies to everyone sitting in this room.Data only has value if it gets used by people who need it. The first era of web mapping was all about getting that information in the hands of people, as well as the tools to work with it.
  • We’ve been around since before 2000, and we remember that at that time mapping applications were the domain of GIS professionals.
  • In the early days, (2000-2006) orgs basically would toss a mini-GIS over the fence. They’d often provide instructions and tutorials, but users were expected to understand things like polygons, layers and a vast assortment of icons that had meaning to GIS pros.I’m not going to make fun of it, or do drive by shootings of antiquated applications. On the contrary, I say good on those people who did their best to get geographic information out in the hands of folks who need it, even when the end result is a bit clunky by today’s standards. The underlying technology used to be far more complicated to deploy and involve all sorts of development work to get applications going. There are lots of real success stories, especially in the era where the alternative was paper maps from the GIS department.  It was a time when end users who were brave enough to learn some GIS had some pretty valuable tools in their hands.
  • Then in 2005 Google Maps took a completely different approach, offering dead simple maps with a few basic layers of basemap information to help people find directions and enjoy a smooth experience. They were simple, elegant and anyone could use them. Everyday people rejected the notion that maps on the Internet needed to be complicated—indeed expectations shifted. We saw people wanting the simple elegance of Google Maps—fair enough. They didn’t want a GIS, they wanted simple maps.
  • With the popularity and adoption of consumer web mapping like Google Maps and Bing, the GIS Producers learned about how Consumersneed their web applications to function. GIS started being influenced by trends in consumer mapping, and consumer mapping started to adopt GIS tools for “power users”.The ask became “The simplicity of Google Maps and the power of GIS”
  • For years we’ve had a product that provides all kinds of stats on server performance and how many people are visiting your apps, what they’re doing with it. And across all these implementations of web GIS, we saw an interesting trend. People, if they weren’t scared off by the web GIS, would start using it for basic sorts of stuff. But then, we saw the stats of applications change. A subset of users would start working with more layers, invoke different tools, and spend more time per session. We interpreted this to mean, and I believe it to be correct, that these applications developed power users. That people started using the overwhelming combination of data and tools in ways that nobody really understood or envisioned. What we did come to believe is that there were likely high value interactions and valuable analysis taking place, that the application was never designed for.
  • The rise of consumer maping on one hand and professional GIS tools on the other started to make clear the difference between applications built for the Internet vs. the Intranet. Web mapping applications for the public tended to be more targeted and less powerful, while mapping applications with powerful GIS tools were delivered more as internal applications offered on an organizations private network.It’s important to note that not all internal users are GIS pros; many of them just need the targeted application as well.
  • Faced with the growing demand from the public for mapping data, producers of mapping applications found that 90% of their user base were really only looking to get answers for 1 or 2 simple questions. Now came the drive to create really simple, targeted applications, because that’s all that most people needed.If I want to know my garbage day, it’s lame to have to open an app, open a folder, turn on the garbage pickup layer, make it active, zoom in to my street, select the identify tool, click my property, then scroll through twenty fields in an identify window to discover TRSH_DAY equals WED.  
  • The key to building successful applications is to ask the question: What do your users want answered?Design a simple targeted application around the one or two questions someone wants an answer to. This is blazingly obvious, and still all to rare today. But why is it so rare?
  • We love that push for targeted applications. Applications that provide examples of how they can be used. Applications that follow step-by-step workflows that are familiar to users, guiding them.Why is it that it is still rare to see really good targeted GIS applications? Why have so many organizations stuck with the single intranet and single internet application pattern?  The answer is twofold. First, some GIS people just don’t get it. But I think they’re a relatively small minority. Second, some things are harder than they sound.
  • We love that push for targeted applications. Applications that provide examples of how they can be used. Applications that follow step-by-step workflows that are familiar to users, guiding them.Why is it that it is still rare to see really good targeted GIS applications? Why have so many organizations stuck with the single intranet and single internet application pattern?  The answer is twofold. First, some GIS people just don’t get it. But I think they’re a relatively small minority. Second, some things are harder than they sound.
  • We love the quote, “Never mistake a clear view for a short distance.”
  • At Latitude, we break our product development mandate into two distinct—and sometimes conflicting—categories.  Consumers: Make it easy to have a good experienceProducers: Make it easy to create and maintain applications over time.  There is often a tension between these two goals. Ideally, you do an absolute bang up job for end users, and create a custom app for every workflow and do A/B testing on every nuance. But the reality is application development costs money.Likewise, you can succeed at making it cost-effective to create and manage apps over time but do a lousy job on the UX side of things. Our goal is to strike an ideal balance between the two.
  • It’s hard to get the underlying infrastructure side down, because technology is constantly changing. We know people who have rewritten the same app numerous times; from MapObjects IMS to ArcIMS custom HTML template to ArcIMS .ASP or .JSP then on Web ADF, then on Flex or Silverlight, and now they’re looking towards HTML5. The same stuff over and over, to keep it working and current. It’s tough enough with a couple applications, but imagine this challenge if you’re offering a constellation of highly tuned applications.
  • These changes in technology cause a lot of problems for the producers of applications. Viewers that were based on an older framework now need to be re-written each time a new framework gets introduced and becomes the standard.
  • This is easy to say, but to do this you need to have the right development patterns, the right application infrastructure, and the right plan that recognizes the constant of change.
  • Our approach is to create and manage these applications, and absorb the changes in platform and technology. Managing these architectural changes opens the door to building targeted apps without the nightmare of maintenance overhead.
  • When your consumer base needs an application to do 1 or 2 things, they soon need another application for 1 or 2 other things. Soon producers may find that they have a gallery of targeted applications that they have built for their diverse group of consumers or consumer needs.
  • Now that targeted apps seem like the way to go, there is a line of thought that says all GIS portal applications should be banished.It’s easy for critics to sit on the sidelines and take potshots at old, seemingly archaic applications with a bloated and complex feature sets, but they’re not tasked with funding these things. It’s especially a challenge because:  Users get angry if you take away features they use regularly.  For many orgs, they’ve been stuck on the seemingly endless treadmill of deploying applications built on technology or approaches blogosphere critics have declared obsolete, as they work diligently to replicate it on whatever is the new way. When they finally launch the “new solution” when it has the features they need, people criticize them immediately for not having built on some emerging new technology or approach that isn’t remotely ready for prime time yet but makes the production app look obsolete.
  • The problem with banishing these advanced portals is that the 10% of users and use cases that were not satisfied with your 1 or 2 features are providing 95% of the value to your organization. It still takes a GIS professional to get the true value out of your full set of GIS data!So we find that tossing these portals out is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
  • Throwing out portals is an overreaction to past wrongs and nerdiness. We believe that web GIS apps, delivered as simply and elegantly as possible—still have an important roll to play. Aside from the fact users will get upset if you take away what they need, if only a small subset of them, we all lose if we eliminate the opportunity to explore and go beyond and create high-value interactions. We believe that a tiny subset of users account for a far outsized level of impact and ROI from our data and these systems.  So, deliver targeted apps for the majority, but don’t forget that web GIS is also a powerful approach.
  • Now that targeted apps seem like the way to go, there is a line of thought that says all GIS portal applications should be banished.It’s easy for critics to sit on the sidelines and take potshots at old, seemingly archaic applications with a bloated and complex feature sets, but they’re not tasked with funding these things. It’s especially a challenge because:  Users get angry if you take away features they use regularly.  For many orgs, they’ve been stuck on the seemingly endless treadmill of deploying applications built on technology or approaches blogosphere critics have declared obsolete, as they work diligently to replicate it on whatever is the new way. When they finally launch the “new solution” when it has the features they need, people criticize them immediately for not having built on some emerging new technology or approach that isn’t remotely ready for prime time yet but makes the production app look obsolete.
  • Now that targeted apps seem like the way to go, there is a line of thought that says all GIS portal applications should be banished.It’s easy for critics to sit on the sidelines and take potshots at old, seemingly archaic applications with a bloated and complex feature sets, but they’re not tasked with funding these things. It’s especially a challenge because:  Users get angry if you take away features they use regularly.  For many orgs, they’ve been stuck on the seemingly endless treadmill of deploying applications built on technology or approaches blogosphere critics have declared obsolete, as they work diligently to replicate it on whatever is the new way. When they finally launch the “new solution” when it has the features they need, people criticize them immediately for not having built on some emerging new technology or approach that isn’t remotely ready for prime time yet but makes the production app look obsolete.
  • We have found that there is a way to balance the needs of your Producers and Consumers, satisfying the needs of the 90% and remembering the power of the 10%. By giving users the ability to explore and discover new, more powerful tools that they were not previously aware of, the masses are combining those tools and data in ways we never foresaw.
  • Applications need to be built so that they can be quickly understood and adopted, then explored and discovered.
  • For us, it’s not about only building targeted apps or only building powerful portals. Building successful web mapping applications is about putting the right tools in the hands of people, and not breaking the bank while creating or maintaining those tools.You need to balance the needs of Producers as well as Consumers and balance the delivery of targeted apps and feature rich portals.
  • Scarc2014 delivering what users need - c robinson

    1. 1. Delivering What Users Need For Web GIS Applications Craig Robinson February 10, 2014
    2. 2. Credentials Running alongside Esri since 1999 1000+ customers and partners worldwide Configurable software to manage their applications Here to talk about ideas
    3. 3. Pre 2000 Any sort of GIS or digital mapping was the domain of GIS professionals
    4. 4. Post 2000 GIS starts moving to the web
    5. 5. 2005 Enter Consumer Maps Simple street maps, providing directions and locations
    6. 6. GIS Web Technology Professional GIS GIS Pros Consumer Mapping General Public
    7. 7. Intranet vs. Internet Private Intranet Public Internet
    8. 8. The 90% 90% of users only need their map to answer 1 or 2 questions The need for targeted apps became clear
    9. 9. The Key Question What questions do they want answered?
    10. 10. Pushing for Targeted Apps
    11. 11. Pushing for Targeted Apps
    12. 12. Never Mistake a Clear View for a Short Distance Just because the answer is clear, does not mean it’s easy. Just because the destination is clear, does not mean it is close
    13. 13. Consumer - Producer Balance Producers Consumers Want it easy to Want it easy to create and understand and maintain experience
    14. 14. Potential Producer Nightmare Map Services Database Connections Custom Tools Viewer Application Security Integration Custom Code Reports Search Workflows ArcGIS Server Multiply this stack by 12…
    15. 15. Technology Rewrites ArcIMS  Web ADF Web ADF  REST Flex  Silverlight  HTML5 ArcGIS Server  ArcGIS Online
    16. 16. The Constant of Change Architect for change. This is easy to say, but requires the right: development patterns, application infrastructure, and the right plan.
    17. 17. An Approach Spatial Application Infrastructure Hosted Services Map Server Security Integration Hosted Data Feature Server Database Connections Reports Web Maps Geocode Server Custom Tools Search ArcGIS Online ArcGIS Server Configuration Workflows
    18. 18. Consumer App Explosion goo.gl/KanOpG
    19. 19. Do we banish Portals?
    20. 20. The Other 10% 10% of your users are power users, and provide 95% of the value to your organization
    21. 21. As Simple As Possible But No More We should continually push to make things as simple as possible Some things are complex by nature, and can only be simplified so much
    22. 22. Portals serve a need goo.gl/RGGmuS
    23. 23. Explore and Discover Give your users a chance and they may surprise you
    24. 24. Principles for Design Understand Adopt Explore Discover
    25. 25. The Right Tools $
    26. 26. 4 Lessons Learned
    27. 27. What Questions Do They Need Answered? What questions do your users need answered? Give them what they need before you try to give them what you want.
    28. 28. Build for Adoption Allow for Exploration Build applications that are easy to understand, yet allow for exploration and discovery.
    29. 29. Consider Technology Change Plan for technology changes with development patterns and infrastructure that can absorb those changes.
    30. 30. Serve the Masses Remember the Explorers 90% of users need to answer 1 or 2 questions. The power users that make up the other 10% will provide 95% of the value to your organization.
    31. 31. Thank you crobinson@latitudegeo.com

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