Aims and Objectives: USeD

This post will look at the aims and objectives of the USeD project. You can read more about the background to the USeD project in this previous blog post.


The aim of the USeD project is to improve the usability and learnability of the Data Download tool within the Digimap Service.   The current interface has been in operation for over 5 years and the process of defining what data you want to download was driven by the architecture of the back-end database.   Advances in spatial databases have made it easier to interact and retrieve spatial data. The new download interface will be designed around the needs of the user,rather than the constraints of the database.

The current download interface has a rigid linear flow, user must;

  1. Select a data product
  2. Define their area of interest.
  3. Select the data tiles or define the extent of the data they want to download.  (These parameters are in part controlled by the data product that the user initially selected)
  4. Select the format that they wish to receive the data in (mac/windows/linux)

There is no opportunity to deviate from this structure. A user may revisit a step, but must then revisit all subsequent steps.  It is felt that the current system assumes that the user has knowledge of Ordnance Survey products and their suitability for specific things.  From help desk logs, this is often not the case and while there are extensive, informative help pages available, the user may contact the help desk for advice or perhaps disengage entirely. A key aspect of the USeD project is to design an interface which meet the needs of all users, not just those that are confident using spatial data.

Broadly, this will be achieved through a series of tasks:

  • reviewing the current download interface
  • engaging with users of the current interface in order to define user personas
  • assessing the current technology that could be utilised in the new interface
  • designing a new interface based on the available new technology which meets the needs of the user personas
  • testing and refining the new interface through iterative user interface testing
  • implementing the new interface

Measuring USeD Success

As the Digimap Download interface is already a well used service and it the only place that staff and students can access certain Ordnance Survey products measuring the impact of the USeD project may be tricky.

We plan to engage with users after the changes go live and ask for their thoughts on the new interface.  We also  aim to speak to some of the users that we engage with for persona development at the beginning of the project.  This should give us a “before and after” from a handful of users.

In addition, we will monitor calls to the Digimap help desk to see if there is a change in the nature and volume of questions being asked.  Are users able to find the data they want or discover datasets that fit their needs without having to ask for help?

Other ideas for getting feedback on the new download tool might be to use popup surveys. These would have to be non-intrusive and would have to be discussed with the Digimap service team, but could be a good way to engage with users as they interact with the new interface.

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