Oct 172011

The STEEV project has deployed the Bug Tracker utility Redmine to capture refinements, tweaks, bugs, feature enhancements on the current state of the demonstrator. These have been gathered as part of the first sweep of the review process. Feedback obtained from other stakeholders (namely, delegates in attendance at the Green Energy Tech Workshop) will also be fed into Redmine.

David Hamill (from goodusability.co.uk) was commissioned to review the STEEV demonstrator for potential usability issues. He found several areas of the interface that could be improved. The most pressing of which were the relationship between the policy-based scenarions and the customisable scenarios compiled from the variable set, and the relationship between the policy scenario controls and the timeline.

The belowmentioned recommendations will also be reviewed and, where applicable fed into Redmine. Our developer (on return from annual leave) will estimate the amount of time required to implement proposed changes. As it stands we aim to have gathered all comment/feedback by the end of October with a view to there being a build freeze shortly after.

The Good usability recommendations are as follows:

  1. Make 2020 the default year so the full controls are released to the user when it loads.
  2. Combine the Present Scenarios and Variables into a single feature with 4 options ( the 3 scenarios and a ‘custom’ option.) and a single submit button .
    If the user moves the controls the currently selected radio button should jump to ‘Custom’ so it doesn’t look as though a preset scenario is being displayed .
  3. Instead of deactivating the controls when the user is in the past, allow the user to create a scenario and if they do so jump to 2020 when they submit it.
  4. Do not rely purely on the slider position to denote the current settings as the sliders can be moved . Consider options for showing the user what the current scenario they are looking at it. If scales were added (see next slide) then the appropriate position on the scale could be highlighted in some way. However this is just one way it could be done.
  5. Provide a scale on the slider to show where the slider can stop. Give each level a tooltip on hover that helps users understand them. The cursor should go to a hand on hover also so that the user understands they can simply click it to get the slider to move to this position.
  6. As explained previously in this report, provide a custom scenario option so the user can see that the preset scenario is not being shown.
  7. Add the short name to the scenario options so the user quickly understands them. This will help the user understand what they are looking at when they see the data.
  8. Combine the output model selection with the legend and show them by default. Allow them (it) to de hidden or minimised by the user.
  9. Use the word ‘forecast’ within the scenario controls in a way that reinforces the idea that this will only generate data for 2020 onward.
    Position the headings for the timeline above the year options rather than having them below. This will make it more likely that they are noticed. Consider also saying ‘Historic data’ and ‘Forecast data’ to reinforce the idea that the scenarios only apply to forecast data.
    Consider providing a stronger visual cue for the currently selected year. Also consider making the forecast years stronger visually than historic years.
  10. Remove the play option and explore ways of allowing users to compare the data across the timeline. This could be through a print option or exporting image files of the data for each year. It could mean generating a PDF that contained the data for each of the years. There are numerous ways of doing this but this Play option is likely to fall short of being useful.
    If it were to remain, the button is incorrectly placed. It’s contextually relevant to the timeline so should be associated with it visually.
  11. Use the word ‘layers’ and an indicative icon for the layer option. Also allow the user to remove either layer.

The Usability Report can be downloaded in full.

 October 17, 2011  Posted by at 12:46 pm General Tagged with:  No Responses »
Sep 292011

As we move into the final phases of STEEV thoughts now turn to user testing and usability. OK, so we’ve built a visualisation tool to view time-series energy efficiency variables for a specific geographic area. But just how intuitive is the interface? How easy it is to use, for the practitioner, or for the novice user? What functionality is missing, and what is superfluous?

First step was to meet with the EDINA training officer (who has experience in conducting usability and user testing for EDINA projects and services). It was immediately apparent that work was required in terms of workflow and instruction. A detailed list of requirements has been assembled for implementation.

For the next step in this process we have approached a ‘Usability Expert’ with a view to having an overall look at the tool in terms of features and functionality in order to articulate and finesse possible ambiguities. We hope to have at the end of this process a usability guide detailing both process and outcome and make this available through the STEEV blog.

Our aim is to have conducted this exercise in time for the STEEV/GECO Green Energy Tech Workshop on on 13 October. This will allow practitioners the opportunity to use the tool in earnest whilst providing further feedback from an experts perspective.

Expect a future blog post detailing the results of the extended usability exercise.

Regarding part 2 of the title. OK, so there’s wasn’t a fit between STEEV and Memento. What does fit however, is the deployment of the Google Earth Time Slider to view the policy-based scenarios (as provided by our project partner) for each of the four modelled output over time (namely: SAP Rating, Energy, COs emissions, CO2 emissions based on 1990 levels). Our GI Analyst (Lasma Sietinsone – replacement for Fiona who’s currently on maternity leave) has created a dozen KML files which can be viewed in Google Earth using the Time Slider utility. The KML files can be downloaded from http://steevsrv.edina.ac.uk/data/.

Note: Guidance notes on viewing the KML files in Google Earth are available.

Alternatively view the ‘Using the Time Slider bar in Google Earth’ You Tube clip:

YouTube Preview Image
 September 29, 2011  Posted by at 3:27 pm General Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  No Responses »