Introduction to User Experience Testing of Mobile Applications for Cadastral Surveys

We are currently in the midst of User Experience testing of our new mobile application, so I thought it might be useful to look back at the work we did a while ago on evaluating mobile tools/apps aimed at cadastral surveys and land/property mapping.

In 2017, Spatial Collective applied new technologies to the data capture element of land registration in order to test whether affordable tools for documentation of land exist, whether these tools can reach the accuracy standards required by the state, and whether communities can replicate the work of a professional surveyorTo do this, our research looked into the land demarcation process, determined whether new technologies were of quality and met national standards, and gauged the most cost-effective tools which are widely accessible to local communities.

Apart from the technical specifications of tools, the methodology for data collection and mapping, and legal specifications, the user experience had to be considered. Are people able to access the services they need? Are they able to use the tools available to them? Are these tools capable of collecting the necessary information, so that they do not waste people’s time and effort? Are the processes and methods accessible, replicable, and easy to use?

To answer some of these questions, we ran a User Experience workshop in Nairobi. The purpose of the workshop was to gather a more holistic understanding of the cadastral system in Kenya and to design an evaluation tool that can be used to scrutinize the mobile applications against the highest professional standards and legal thresholds. The workshop helped determine the immediate and long-term usability and accessibility of these tools to local people in data collection. It consisted of a design-thinking workshop, walkthroughs, and contextual interviews.

Design Thinking Workshop

The Design Thinking Workshop is a process led by a professional facilitator in which relevant stakeholders come together to deliberate about the issues at hand. The process aims to directly approach complex problems, gather insights, uncover frustrations and latent needs and put forth opportunities for innovation as seen from varying perspectives to create holistic, sustainable solutions with a human-centered focus.[1]

The participants of the design-thinking workshop were government and independent surveyors, high-end survey tool merchants, legal professionals, community leaders, and community members. The topic of the workshop was:

“Can widely available ICT’s such as mobile phones and off-the-shelf GPS units meet the professional survey and legal standards when used for land mapping?”

The dialogue provided a well-rounded understanding of the issues on surveying, land administration, and land mapping faced by various stakeholders.

Walkthroughs

Walkthroughs involve a thorough examination of specific steps taken to achieve a specific goal.

Several walkthrough exercises were facilitated with stakeholders to understand the process of land adjudication and registration of private and community land.

Contextual Interviews

Contextual interviews are personal interviews with stakeholders to uncover their individual perspectives, frustrations, desires, dreams, and goals. It also allows for the observation of stakeholders at work.

Several in-person interviews were conducted with government and private surveyors, community leaders, landowners, community members, and legal professionals.

Design of the Technology Evaluation Tool

Based on the user experience workshop, a tool for evaluating mobile applications for parcel/land mapping was designed. There was a particular focus on mobile applications as these are the most common technologies for on-the-ground data collection in development.

It was also evaluated whether selected applications allow for the capture of the most necessary attribute and spatial data on parcel/land, and user’s experience while using them. The evaluations can be divided into two parts:

  • Technical Testing
  • User Experience

Only two applications, GeoODK Collect and ESRI’s Geo-Collector, were tested. These represent two strands of software, Open Source and Proprietary, and are two applications which are often used in development. The following evaluation tool developed, however, can be used on any other application/tool. More about that coming in the next blog posts.

[1] See: http://design-thinking.org/en/index.html

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