So, I’m heading to a decidedly non-developer focused GIS conference, and I’m kinda excited. When I first heard about the GeoDesign Summit back in late 2009, I automatically assumed it was going to be a conference focusing on the “design” aspects of geospatial applications – usability, user experience, cartography – a “future of web design” type event, but for geoweb developers and designers.
Although that would be a fantastic event, apparently that’s not the case. From what I have about last year’s event, it’s more about using GIS as an interactive design tool – enabling on-the-fly “what-if” scenarios. In the past I’ve helped create desktop tools that did this sort of “just-sketch-and-the-app-does-all-the-hard-work” apps, so I expect it will be interesting to learn about how this is being applied and how it’s implemented in Esri software.
Since these new “GeoDesigner” tools are likely directed towards the non-traditional GIS user, I hope there will be discussions addressing usability of the tools. For too long the UI’s for geoweb applications have been in lock-step with the desktop UI paradigm, and I think we need to dispatch with the table-of-contents + toolbars +map model because it simply does not work for those who have not used desktop GIS. It is also much to “open-ended” and overly complicates applications, yet so many “GIS” people staunchly believe that every map related application simply must have a table of contents.
Yet somehow Google Maps and the zillion mashups it spawned, all the pretty and amazing apps by Stamen Design, and a growing number of application created by DTS and others still manage to be easy to use – despite not having a “table of contents”.
For a while Esri was actually trying to force this issue by simply not providing a TOC control or TOC services, but it seems like the angry mob bearing pitch forks and torches has prevailed. A search for “esri flex table of contents” leads to all sorts of articles where people are clearly still trying to cram a desktop experience into what should be a focused web application. Repeat after me – “I don’t neet a TOC, I don’t need a TOC.”
Anyhow, I hope that this is addressed, and if not I’ll try to bring it up and see what the “great minds” in this space are thinking about this. We can create all sorts of cool new technology but if it’s poorly packaged it will not have anywhere near the intended impact.
It should be an interesting few days of hanging out with various bloggers and Esri folks, as well as a nice break from the freezing temps here in Colorado!
If you’re out at the GeoDesign Summit and see me wandering around – drop by and say hi!