In producing dynamic maps for students/users I have found the time invested in user testing well worth it. I use a varient of think aloud protocol called hallway testing. I grab any 2 or 3 likely users for 20 minutes each and set them a sample task (its important to get them to do something rather than just comment). They explain what they are doing when they get stuck or find something confusing and I prompt them if they aren't saying anything. Its a great way to discover consistent issues users have with your maps, most major problems will pop up with 3 users.

I use software to record the screen (silverback) but just taking notes was pretty effective. With a big project I also advocate 'test early, test often'.

I've found clients to be unhappy about funding user testing but its so quick and low tech that I tend to do it anyway to make sure there aren't unknown issues with a project

Do you use user testing when producing dynamic maps?
If so, what techniques have you found to be effective and why?

  • silverback looks good. Would be interested to hear how relevant the results of this are for web mapping applications (partic flash based web mapping apps)
    – jakc
    Commented Jan 11, 2011 at 10:50
  • I use the technique mostly with Google Earth but no reason why it wouldn't work just as well with any interactive map system. If you're asking about the interaction of Silverback with flash then I can only suggest you download the trial and give it a go. Silverback is useful but I would emphasise that the technique is more important than the software.
    – Trevesy
    Commented Jan 12, 2011 at 12:24

1 Answer 1


There are some studies on the use of eye-movement tracking. The principle is to capture what the user exactly reads and to analyse the result.

See the popeye and animeye projects for more information.

  • Thanks for the links, IMHO eye tracking is a useful tool but often over relied upon (seeing where the user is looking doesn't tell you what they are thinking). I was also interested if you use the technique yourself
    – Trevesy
    Commented Jan 12, 2011 at 12:04
  • no, I don't use it.
    – julien
    Commented Jan 12, 2011 at 13:46

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