I have attended at least five ESRI Conferences over the years. And this year, having completed my postdoctoral fellowship, I attended the ESRI User Conference (ESRI UC) with a very new perspective.
I began thinking more about the term User Conference and the user experience of Geographic Information Systems. For several years I had wondered about my skills in being able to optimally use GIS technology. I was very excited about GIS, what it could do, and I had definitely "drunk the Kool-Aid" as a GIS enthusiast.
Over the past two years in my informatics postdoc training I realized that everyone's spatial analysis skills and interests are different, and that we have various experiences to contribute to the field. This year, attending the ESRI UC, I realized the power of understanding usability in technology - and at this User Conference, I began thinking about GIS from a User Experience (UX) and UX Research perspective.
How is GIS technology usable and accessible to the public, to children, to community members, and to people with disabilities?
At the exhibition area, the first stop I visited was the User Research corner. I wanted to ask questions about their UX research process, vision and what they are seeking to understand. I wasn't able to get all of these answers yet, but I was asked to participate in a couple of surveys where both Likert-scale and free-text boxes were provided for my response to structured questions. I appreciated the opportunity to share my perspectives of GIS technology, and even share my experience of service dogs at the conference (my service-trained giant schnauzer was attending as well).
I left the ESRI UC wondering about how I could continue to explore questions of GIS and user experience, for example: How is GIS data visualization understood by the public? Are we communicating spatial data in the most beneficial ways? And, how can we further involve stakeholders in the use of spatial analytics data?