We have harped on many times in this blog about the fact that GIS technology is not simple. Certainly it is true some of the new GIS platforms have made working with GIS easier. But that does not mean easy. There is little doubt any organization adopting GIS technology will need in-house expertise to be successful. But this post is less focused on the mechanics of the GIS backend, but on the all important user experience.

3 Ways to Turn GIS Failure to Success

For any GIS solution to be successful it must satisfy 3 requirements:

  1. Must be simple and intuitive
  2. Must be easy to adjust to fit users exact needs
  3. Saves time and money

Alas, too many GIS web, and mobile apps are far away from satisfying the above three key requirements. Let’s walk through this list starting with simple and intuitive. Take a look at the map viewer below:

On first glance would you call this a simple map viewer? I count between 20 and 30 buttons. What do they all do? Why are so many options included? Thank goodness one of these buttons opens a help window so I can keep reminding myself how to use this application.

In today’s world we all are looking for simplicity. I chose one map viewer to highlight above, but could have included many others. Complex web applications should be a thing of the past. At WebMapSolutions we design our web apps taking the Occams razor approach. That is break problems down to the simplest elements. We build focused applications to solve specific problems. Applications which do not require training. Below is a real estate web app we recently built designed to help agents and brokers find parcel data:

As you can see it is simple. The web app contains only 7 tools. Thought went into a clean design and intuitive use.

Let’s next consider flexibility. How easy is a GIS web or mobile app to adjust? Some of you might know Collector for ArcGIS.

This is a mobile app we like. It is focused and relatively easy to use. But it is generic. What do I mean here? Simply that you get what you get. If you need different functionality, or different workflows you are out of luck. Collector cannot be customized. Too many applications we come across are either impossible to customize or very difficult to modify.

We take a modular approach to GIS design. That means widgets which are easy to add and adjust. We also prefer open not closed. So nothing proprietary. For web and many mobile apps we look to open web technologies like Javascript.  The map viewer below is a web app which provides the same functionality as Collector but is infinitely flexible. Oh and just like Collector works both online and offline:

Why does anybody adopt new technology (and remember to many GIS is new)? To save time and money. To move away from manual processes and automate as much as possible. Let’s consider asset management as an example. Maybe a local government with many assets (parks, roads, water supply, road signs etc) to manage. That is a complex task. GIS is a perfect way to manage these assets. Providing simple ways to automate inspections and the work order process for example.

There are many good asset management systems on the market today which leverage GIS technology. But most are expensive and complex. Advances in GIS and mobile technology has meant today that the expensive and complex is being replaced by the cost effective and time saving. As an example, we have been working with a group of municipalities in the Midwest, designing a simple, low cost work order system. They designed it. We built it. It has proven very popular among both small municipalities new to GIS, and larger organizations looking to replace existing asset management systems.

We believe simple and intuitive, easy to customize, and time and money saving are the 3 guiding principals which will guarantee success with GIS.

Contact us for more information.

Author: Staff Writer

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