Discover motivations and behaviors of GIS users to improve usability 

Role: UX Researcher
Project Type: Web Development
Team: Jason Lam, Mara Blake
Contribution: Usability Testing, Heuristic Evaluation, Research Plan, Interview Protocol, Affinity Diagram, and Brainstorming
Deliverable: Usability Report


As part of the Big Ten Academic Alilance, the University of Michigan had launched a geoportal that offered geospatial resources. As part of their soft launch, they wanted to conduct testing to improve usability and determine what was the specific use flow.


Heuristic Evaluation

To start, I worked with seven members of the  usability team and conducted a heuristic evaluation of the site. This served to guide where we should focus our efforts during the usability test, as well as determine potential issues where the team may disagree.

usability testing

Initially, we conducted a few pilot tests with novice and experienced GIS users to create a polished interview protocol. After revising our tasks, we worked with the team to lead usability tests that occured on three different campuses. In total, over ten users were interviewed completing seven tasks. Once we completed the tests, we summarized our finding based on completion time, sources of error, and severity of error. Additionally, we created an affinity diagram with all the issues we had observed and listed out potential solutions. 

learning lessons

users says the darndest thing

After interviewing eight participants, we discovered that they had employed five different search strategies to complete the tasks. As we kept going on, it became more clear that users tended to user many workarounds as our site faced numerous usability issues. To view our complete report, view our report on the Code4Lib Journal.