Making GIS UI friendly

Although unrelated to analysis, the User interface (UI) is an incredibly important aspect of any GIS. When using applications such as ArcGIS, the graphical user interface (GUI) is what the person sees when they interact with the software on their screen. Thus, the simpler and easier to use the interface is, the faster the end-user will be able to learn the system and use it efficiently.

One of the best ways of organizing the UI seems to be the use of  natural or interface mappings. These methods play on the users intuitive and logical reactions to occurences. For example, Lanter uses the analogy of the steering wheel. If a person turns the steering wheel right, the car will then move to the right; and vice versa. Similarly, when a user moves the mouse to the right or left, then they would logically assume the cursor on the screen would do the same. This seems to be the best way to teach users how to use a particular system, as they are more likely remember instinctive actions.

Lanter identifies two key concepts that should be taken into account during user centered interface design: how to map the system interface to the users existing model, and how to shape and influence the users model while they interact with the system.  The first part, as previously mentioned, has to do with designing the interface to take advantage of an individuals intuitions and natural mapping. The second part-arguably the biggest challenge going forward in UI design- regards how easily the user is able to learn the system, based on the way it is organized and fulfills functions. Overall, further development in UI- primarily in ease of use and intuitiveness- will open GIS to a larger variety of individuals, especially those relatively unfamiliar with GIS applications.

-Victor Manuel

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