A user-centred design of human-computer interfaces, what a thought! As someone who has gotten to grow up with the best of computers (so far), but still remembers the clunky old Macintosh that was considered ahead of the rest, I definitely see the value in a smooth, practical, and functional design. So after reading this article by Haklay and Tobon, I was left with two thoughts.
One, to what extent should design conform to the needs of the people, and to what lengths should people go to meet the design? The idea of incorporating usability and HCI techniques into public participatory GIS (PPGIS) is, in my opinion, a good one, and can create this middle ground. People can learn new skills, allowing them to become more familiar with potentially less than intuitive softwares (ArcGIS, anyone?) and simultaneous research can restructure software to be as functional and also usable as possible.
Additionally, it made me think of the students in this class who are going through ethics approval, and trying to get people to participate in GIS-related studies. This article mentions three workshops, which were integrated into a context larger than just furthering GIS as a field, which seemingly drew more participants. But for people like the students in this class, who require volunteers to simply further their own (and eventually our) understanding of GIS techniques, participants are less than willing. So while the research aspect usability of PPGIS is an honourable pursuit, I wonder how realistic it would be if the user is not someone who is involved in a particular group, like the involved citizens in Wandsworth, but rather an everyday user of a website or phone app.
I enjoy their statement at the end, though, that points out that “ease of use and user friendliness are characteristics of software that are more elusive than they first seem to be”. Isn’t that the truth!