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Towards usability engineering for online editors of volunteered geographic information: a perspective on learnability

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • Kate Jones
  • P. Weber
This article presents one of the first systematic usability investigations for a Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) editor. This research is motivated by the fact that although VGI is now widely consumed, contribution rates are lagging considerably. Compared to traditional GIS interfaces, with complex interfaces resulting in high cognitive loads and barriers to participation, VGI tools and interfaces need to be easy to use and learn to encourage and facilitate contributions. This article develops a case study of OpenStreetMap, one of the most successful VGI projects, and its default editor, Potlatch2. Ten participants with no prior experience of VGI contribution, were instructed to contribute data to OSM in a structured exercise, while being monitored using an eye tracker and audio/video screen capture software. Each participant was asked to Think Aloud, i.e. describe what they were thinking and doing as they completed the tasks. The results highlight significant usability issues impacting learnability, especially from the perspective of a new contributor: hidden functionality, lack of user feedback between interactions and the inefficient and inconsistent placement of functionality and map controls. The facilitation of VGI contributions clearly depends on designing targeted interfaces, optimized to the needs of specific levels of contributors with defined goals and expectations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)523-544
Number of pages22
JournalTransactions in GIS
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012

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