You are here

Improving participation of users in coastal web atlases

TitleImproving participation of users in coastal web atlases
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsKopke, K, Dwyer, N, Belpaelme, K, Berman, M, Taylor, K, Hart, D, Wright, D
Conference NameLittoral 2010
Date Published21/09/2010
Conference LocationLondon
Keywordscoastal web atlas, community, developers, International Coastal Atlas Network, users

In recent years significant momentum has occurred in the development of Internet based geospatial data resources for decision makers, scientists and the general public who are interested in the coast. The European Commission is supporting such activities through initiatives such as EMODNET and the European Atlas of the Seas. Coastal mapping plays an important role in informing decision makers on issues such as national sovereignty, resource management, maritime safety and hazard assessment. A key aspect of this trend has been the development of coastal web atlases (CWAs), based on web enabled geographic information systems (GIS). CWAs offer an innovative means to provide information not only to decision makers but also to wider audiences that include local coastal communities hence supporting informed communication between stakeholders of the coastal environment. An important element of CWA development is to ensure that the needs of the target audience are being addressed. It is therefore important to communicate with end users on a regular basis. Baseline Web information such as the IP address, data downloads, visitor numbers, etc. is very useful. However many CWA developers require more detailed information such as an indication of how data downloads have been used or more qualitative evaluation of CWA elements to enable Atlas improvement. CWA developers are now evaluating mechanisms that are popular and successful in web 2.0 applications such as “like/dislike” buttons. These tools might not provide a detailed user evaluation of the CWA, but can indicate trends and offer instant impressions of user opinion on information, format or layers in a CWA. User surveys have been used by CWA developers with varying success. Targeted online surveys of a limited number of known frequent users have been used effectively to provide detailed feedback. Focus groups have also been used with success to complete semi-structured surveys when trying to gather answers to specific questions. It is important to demonstrate to users that the survey has a goal such as atlas improvements in order to motivate them to provide information. Enhancing users’ sense of ownership achieved by web applications that allow more direct user input has been accomplished by some CWAs. The strengths and weaknesses of such an approach should be further explored by individual CWAs, as this could enhance the understanding of user needs and improve the relationship of the atlas developer to the user community. Atlas developers within the International Coastal Atlas Network who have worked on the Marine Irish Digital Atlas, the Belgian Coastal Atlas, Chesapeake Bay Atlases, the Washington Coastal Atlas and The Wisconsin Coastal Atlas have significant experience in gathering and analyzing user feedback. This can be of value to others researching methods to evaluate the impact of their Internet geospatial resources.