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User Needs and Usability

Understanding how people do and could use geographic information effectively is at the heart of how Ordnance Survey can deliver content to meet users’ needs now and in the future. With the focus on how people work and interact with the real-world and geographic information, this area of research draws on aspects of Human Factors and User Centred Design.

User needs

This research aims to understand needs for geographic information in the context of what people do in their work or leisure activities. User groups, use contexts, applications and technologies are many and diverse for geographic information, presenting many different perspectives on priorities for information content, quality, structure, formats and so on.


Building on user needs activities, usability research is focused on improving the design and development of geographic information. Much existing research and methodologies in the field of product usability are aimed at products such as mobile devices, computer interfaces and web sites, with not so much focus on usability of data products. Our research in this area largely concerns how to adapt and implement such methodologies in the context of geographic information. The main aims are to: reduce costs and improve efficiencies in design and development of geographic information; improve customer satisfaction with geographic information content and products.

In addition to the research we do ourselves, we are always interested in external research in these areas concerned with user needs and usability of geographic information, including through working with universities.

Examples of previous collaborations:

Knowledge Transfer Partnership – User Centred Design and Geographic Information

In September 2011 Ordnance Survey (Research) and the University of Nottingham (Human Factors Group) completed a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP007366), part supported by the Technology Strategy Board. The successful partnership developed a set of user centred design tools for the evaluation and design of geographic information and introduced them within the organisation. User Centred Design means putting users at the centre of the design process. It is closely linked to concepts such as usability, user friendliness, ergonomics and user experience. This field of research has existed for many years within the world of software and hardware design, but few have implemented it within the design of information products.

Workshops on usability of geographic information

We have run a series of Geographic Information Usability Workshops with the University of Nottingham, University College London, University of Glasgow and Northumbria University, with the support of the ICA Commission on Use and User Issues.

Contact us

For more information:

Contact: Anne Patrick, Research Project Coordinator

Email: universityenquiries@os.uk

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