In today’s environment of accountability it’s essential to deliver on the expectations of users – or face serious consequences. As such, the growing ubiquity of digital products across all aspects of our lives is driving demand for technology that is smart, simple and contextual.

To meet today’s heightened and often demanding user expectations, it’s important to first understand who your end-users are and what they really need. Esri Australia does this by applying a set of user-centred principles.

When we look deeper into people’s behaviour and needs, we can find meaningful solutions and harness technology in a usable way.

What is user-centred design?

At its core, user-centred design is an approach to problem-solving that puts the people you’re designing for at the heart of the process, delving into their needs before building a solution.

Projects that take this approach embody a clear way of thinking, as outlined below.

The five elements of user-centred design thinking

  1. Empathise. You must empathise with your users and understand their unique challenges if you’re going to design something that hits the mark. This phase in the design process is all about observation and user-behaviour research.
  2. Define. Make sense of all the intel you’ve gathered and analyse your data. This is the point at which compelling insights begin to emerge, a view of users that helps you to define the problem that your solution needs to solve.
  3. Ideate. Design thinking encourages innovation. Which is why so much emphasis is put on ideation. This part of the process typically generates many ideas and solutions, where out-of-the-box thinking is encouraged, and negative critiques are sidelined.
  4. Prototype. The prototype-building phase is where potential solutions are made tangible, allowing the designer to gather feedback and narrow down ideas. It’s about creating something quickly, with minimal effort that can then be tested with the end-user and refined.
  5. Testing. Prototyping and testing often go hand-in-hand: you need to know what you are testing and how you’re going to test before you can create a prototype. During this part of the process ideas are narrowed down to a single solution. User-centred design encourages a process of repeated testing and refining until the solution is as best as it can be.

Once a project reaches the end of this 5-step design thinking process, the project shifts to solution development.

We design our geospatial applications with the user front of mind.

How does a user-centred process improve GIS applications?

It may often seem quicker, easier and cheaper to make assumptions about the needs of end-users. However, this can have unexpected consequences.

For example, Western Australia’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) found out how these types of assumptions can be problematic after receiving a disappointing reaction – from both employees and volunteers – to a new digital solution they delivered. As a result of this experience DFES embedded a user-centred design process into all subsequent digital applications.

Projects developed using a user-centred approach typically cost less in the long run, deliver more value and provide end-users with solutions that exceed expectations.

Conversely, in a recent project Brisbane City Council recognised the need for their existing city plan application to be available on mobile devices and engaged Esri Australia to create the application.

The needs of the end-user were considered throughout the project, starting with mapping the user base and their needs through stakeholder workshops. Wireframing and prototyping were also undertaken to test assumptions and usability prior to development.

The result of having this user-centred process was increased app usage by key user groups.

To enquire about how a user-centred approach could help your GIS project, email an Esri Australia UX consultant or call 1800 870 750.

About the Author

Gary Johnson
Gary Johnson
Chief Innovation Officer
Esri Australia, Melbourne
Innovative thought leader driving groundbreaking inventive spatial analytics strategies.

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