GUIs, GIS, Geoweb

Lanter and Essinger’s paper, “User-Centred Graphical User Interface Design for GIS,” outlines the development from a typical user interface, to a graphical user interface, and finally to a user-centred graphical user interface. The biggest take-home point I gathered from the article was that the user interface must meet the user’s conceptual model of how the system is supposed to work. If the UI and the user’s model match up, then using the software becomes much more intuitive to the user, resulting in a minimal need for instruction manuals and other forms of support. It got me thinking about how quickly a preconceived conceptual model can be erased and/or replaced. Take switching operating systems for example—going from PC to Mac we already have a mental map of how to do basic computer tasks (how to find and transfer files, format the screen, etc), but these things are done differently on each system. Somehow we grow accustomed to the new operating system’s UI, and it will eventually replace our previous conceptual framework.

Following Elwood’s article and a call for a new framework for geovisualisation, it may be interesting to think about how our GIS conceptual frameworks will hold up in the new paradigm. The GUIs for geovisualisation are arguably easier to use than a traditional GIS (the idea of making it a public technology rather than an expert technology), so it follows that the GUI will fall into GIS users existing conceptual frameworks. Going the other way—starting with geovisualisation technologies and branching into traditional GIS—or even going back to GIS after extensive geowebbing—may be harder.



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