The design team at Koordinates has been busy researching the workflows and requirements of our publishers and users.
As the design team has grown at Koordinates, one of the biggest things we’ve been working on is updating and improving the product. We’ve talked previously about some of the other changes we’ve made with the launch of our new help site, marketing site, and Koordinates ID, but not a lot yet about what we’ve been working on for koordinates.com.
We’ll be posting more about these changes in the coming weeks. But before we do so, we wanted to share some details about the research we’ve undertaken to help decide what improvements to make.
Earlier this year, we got in touch with a range of people who publish their data with us and many of the users that access that data. They patiently answered our questions and helped us learn more about their roles, teams and projects. Several also kindly let us observe them using the product and provided invaluable feedback (both good and bad) about their experiences using Koordinates.
For our user research we combined both quantitative research, the numbers and analytics we have about the product and qualitative research, the answers from conversations with users.
With these two approaches, we were able to check whether what people said matched or deviated from the numbers and patterns we could see from our analytics; we also discovered other details, such as what additional tools and services they use. This enabled us to better understand how Koordinates fits within the landscape of geospatial applications, discover opportunities for future integrations with other products and get a better understanding of their day-to-day work with data.
Most of our initial research was interview based, where we asked both direct and indirect questions to get a range of answers about the product. This helped tease out the obvious high-level answers and the more nuanced responses that came when people got more comfortable providing feedback. This approach helps designers dig deeper into the most common problems users are facing and then design for those scenarios. Sometimes they’re not always obvious from looking purely at the numbers.
We talked to people from both small and large engineering firms, architecture practices, research institutes, construction and surveying companies, and government agencies – in New Zealand and also the U.S. Some people we talked to we’re working on multi-year-long projects, while others had projects that were complete in the space of a few weeks.
As we began to hear similar answers, we were able to focus in on the typical workflows for publishing and using data, the types of data that are most commonly used in projects and how that data is accessed on the Koordinates platform. When arranging our findings it became clear that a ‘data lifecycle’ existed on the platform around the publication and usage of data.
We noticed the key steps for publishing data (Insight, Prepare, Store & Publish) were intrinsically linked to the key steps for accessing data (Find, Appraise, Access & Use). Below is a summary of these steps.
Find: Users begin by searching and discovering data from different sources for their projects.
Appraise: Users check that what they’ve found is ‘fit-for-purpose’ by layering data together, reviewing the metadata, extent, and geometry.
Access: Users crop and export data in their desired file format and projection to use within their projects.
Use: Exported data is imported into their applications and tools for use in projects.
Insight: Based on usage and access, publishers can see analytics that inform updates and the publication of data.
Prepare: Scanning and editing data to create an inventory to easily publish.
Store: The scanned data is processed to enable it to be repackaged on-the-fly into different formats and projections for users
Publish: Publishers make data available with their choice of license and permission controls.
By focusing on the workflows of publishers and users, we were able to prioritise those aspects of the Koordinates platform that would have the greatest benefit to our customers. People use Koordinates because it makes something very difficult—publishing and accessing large, complex geospatial datasets in a range of specifications from your browser—seem relatively intuitive. Our job in the design team is to find any pain-points and bottlenecks in these workflows, and ultimately ensure that all professionals, regardless of their knowledge or experience with GIS, can access the data they need for their projects.
Most recently we’ve started talking to a smaller group of users to test new ideas for discovering and exporting data. Based on our research, we found this to be the area where we could make the most impact, and we have been designing prototypes that focus on how people find, appraise, access and use data on Koordinates.
The aim of our user testing has been to see if what we’ve designed works as expected, to check if our assumptions were correct and to determine where we can make further changes to our designs before we build and release them.
We’ve used several different tools to prototype concepts and test these designs, both in person and online. In another post we’ll share more about our prototyping process and all the tools and approaches we’ve tried. There’s been many!
Over multiple sessions, with a mixture of people who had recently started using Koordinates and people who have been relying on us for many years, we refined our ideas and designs. After the many tests and iterations of our prototypes, from initial paper sketches to complete designs, we’ve settled on a direction that we think improves the experience of using the application, and will have a genuine impact on how geospatial data is accessed and used.
We look forward to sharing the results of our work in the weeks and months ahead!
Finally, what we’ve learned from the feedback we’ve received has been invaluable in helping us determine priorities and opportunities for improvements to the product. We wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who contributed their time over the last few months and hope you enjoy the soon to be released changes they’ve helped create.
Photo of James Barringer from Landcare Research in Christchurch, New Zealand.