Only hearsay and confidence?

Adena Schutzberg of Directions Magazine has written about the many announcements from GIS vendors about easy-to-use GIS products. She suggests that a lot of the problems with GIS are about confidence in using a product and hearsay from other users.

For me, it is noteworthy that, while she has been in the industry for many years, Adena’s analysis shows lack of familiarity with basic usability concepts such as satisfaction, error tolerance, learnability, memorability and others. This is not surprising as the GIS industry is willing to pay lip service to ease of use, but in reality it does not engage seriously with usability engineering and GIS. Actually, there is really no attention paid to or willingness to invest in usability testing or integration of usability expertise in the design process. One of the best examples of this is that, even though ESRI has a usability engineering section on its site (, a search by Google shows that no other page is linked to it!
At AGI GeoCommunity ’08 conference I’m going to talk about usability and GIS, so I hope to have some interesting conversations about the ‘usability culture’ of the GIS industry…


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Professor of GIScience, University College London

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