An empirical usability evaluation of a web-based public participation geographic information system and discussion forum

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The study of Public Participation Geographic Information Systems (PPGIS) focuses on the use of GIS by non-experts and regular citizens, which requires that such systems be accessible and easy to use. Review of PPGIS literature reveals, however, a lack of documented research about how non-expert users and the general public are using PPGIS tools. Building on earlier PPGIS research, a GIS-enabled Online Discussion Forum prototype named GeoDF has been implemented and evaluated. In this thesis, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) principles are drawn upon and a rigorous set of usability evaluation procedures are designed to empirically evaluate the usability and user acceptance of the GeoDF software. Evaluation results confirm that the GeoDF is not only an effective communication platform, but also a useful participatory tool that encourages participants to be more involved in land use planning procedures. Results also show that by enhancing usability, lowering the cost of entry, and providing effective communication channels would result in greater user acceptance of the PPGIS technology. A two-sample t-test analysis proves the research results to be statistically significant.