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Usability of geographic information: current challenges and future directions

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journal contribution
posted on 18.09.2012 by Michael Brown, S. Sharples, J. Harding, Christopher J. Parker, N. Bearman, Martin Maguire, D. Forrest, M. Haklay, Mike Jackson
The use of Geographic Information or GI, has grown rapidly in recent years. Previous research has identified the importance of usability and user centred design in enabling the proliferation and exploitation of GI. However, the design and development of usable GI is not simply a matter of applying the tried and tested usability methods that have been developed for software and web design. Dealing with data and specifically GI brings with it a number of issues that change the way usability and user centred design can be applied. This paper describes the outcomes of a workshop held in March 2010 exploring the core issues relating to GI usability. The workshop brought together an international group of twenty experts in both human factors and GI, from a wide range of academic and industrial backgrounds. These experts considered three key issues, the stakeholders in GI, key challenges applying usability to GI and the usability methods that can be successfully applied to GI. The result of this workshop was to identify some areas for future research, such as the production of meaningful metadata and the implications of blurring of the line between data producers and data consumers.


This work was carried out in collaboration with Horizon Digital Economy Research, through the support of RCUK grant EP/G065802/1 and the Knowledge Transfer Partnership scheme (KTP_070110) through the support of the Technology Strategy Board.



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BROWN, M. ... et al, 2013. Usability of geographic information: current challenges and future directions. Applied Ergonomics, 44 (6), pp.855–865.


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This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Applied Ergonomics. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version is available at:






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