4 things you should know about User Experience in GIS30 May 2022
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One of the branches of data management is GIS or Geographic Information System. It is a system that combines geographic data with other types of data. It’s often presented in the form of a map. GIS helps solve many problems worldwide, but how to deliver the collected information clearly so that users and scientists can understand it accurately? The solution is UX design or user experience design.

1. What is UX Design in GIS?

Are you familiar with the standard web map user interface? They tend to have lots of tools in the same place, multiple layers, and no legend. This makes them difficult to use:

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An old map search interface from https://www.oldmapsonline.org

Software tends to be unintuitive when development teams create it, with no consultations from user experience designers.

The UX/UI designer's job is to design the interface to make it as understandable as possible to the user or customer. UX/UI designers also take care of the attractive design and select the most relevant features. The designer should have experience in user testing and knowledge of design principles to do that.

The best work is usually done in teams to take care of every little detail. Every element matters and can determine the success of a project. One of the most popular map applications with excellent UX / UI is Google Maps. The intuitive interface makes the application very easy to use by people all over the world:

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Picture from Google

2. Why is User Experience in GIS important?

Geospatial design and user experience can reduce the time to science. With advanced technology, scientists save time in many ways:

  • data processing takes much less time
  • the process goes much smoother
  • the waiting time for data download is significantly reduced. We know cases where scientists sometimes had to wait several days to collect all the data.

This translates into getting better results and, in the bigger picture, helping the world more. The biggest giants have already understood this. After a pandemic, where much of our lives have shifted to the online world, understanding the user seems more critical than ever.

The chart below shows the enormous increase in popularity and relevance of UX/UI researchers in developing digital products.

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According to Jason Buhle, in 2021, the number of UX researchers increased by as much as 25%!

3. Mobile User Experience in GIS Matters

A significant number of Geographic Information System app users primarily use it on mobile devices. They are helpful for couriers, farmers, geologists, and field workers in the energy, resource extraction, and utility sectors.

A well-thought-out GIS UX design should consider the limitations of mobile devices - lower resolution and poorer color reproduction. An important consideration is that users often use it while on the move or wearing gloves.

Additional challenges are the various limitations of users - some people do not distinguish colors correctly, and users with poor eyesight may overlook the nuances of the displayed image.

An important issue is to design the legend so that the symbols used are as clear and understandable as possible, preferably without an additional manual.

The speed of the application is also essential. The mobile version should support employees while moving around the warehouse or on the road, where Internet access may be limited.

Quick response to an inquiry is not only a matter of convenience but also work safety. Too much time focused on the smartphone causes the employee not to control the environment around him.

An application designed with user experience should not interfere with work but smoothly support its execution.

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4. Examples from our work

We have many years of experience in designing GIS user interfaces. We work with companies that already have softwares, but they are outdated and need a new interface design or website version.

We also design new applications, connecting them with older software in the company. If someone has an e-commerce platform with limited functions, we add there, for example, a tablet application that facilitates work in the warehouse. And this app connects with the old software and exchanges data.

A mobile app for daily delivery operations

For one of the largest delivery companies in Poland, we have designed an application for couriers. Every day it facilitates the flow of several thousand deliveries. After collecting the shipments from the warehouse, the application determines the optimal delivery route and displays it on the map. Specialists developed the application engine in logistics solutions. We made sure that the interface used by the delivery person is helpful and not an obstacle in work.

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Helping geologists

We worked on the interface design for a project for a software supplier for geological data analysis. The data is necessary for searching and identifying attractive locations of natural resources. The advanced application integrates structured and unstructured data needed in the exploration process. This data is presented using maps to indicate the optimal exploration location.

Until now, only data managers could use the software. The new interface was designed so that geologists could also use it. It significantly speeds up the pace of work, as the intended users of the data do not have to wait for help from data managers but generate the necessary reports themselves.

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Booking system app

Bidroom is a booking.com-style app, but with a different business model. It's a club membership subscription that gives tangible benefits to travelers. You pay an annual fee and enjoy discounts on hotels and other travel-related services.

Our team was responsible for both design and front-end development based on the API provided by the client. The biggest challenge was a map view (Google Maps implementation).

The map is the focal point of data visualization. It is the hotel room offerings. In this context, the map view is as important as the data itself because we often choose a hotel in terms of the area, access, stores, and attractions nearby.

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Conclusion

The GIS industry is strongly connected to the world of design. In many cases, maps are themselves the interface. The choice and presentation of the data determine the success of either the software or the application.

User experience (UX) design is the process design teams use to create digital products that provide relevant and meaningful experiences to users. Contact us if you plan to develop new software or application in your company or refresh the look of an existing one.

We have over 17 years of design experience and would love to hear about your project.

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