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Delivering Accessible Internet GIS Services
Continued...

Report Definition

The objects in reports contain stand-alone elements that can exist independently or be nested. The first level of a report consists of the root section. A section is an element that separates different parts of a report. A report can have one or many sections. Sections can contain additional sections or various report elements such as search option, map, table, paragraph, and link elements. Elements can also contain other elements. A table element may contain a paragraph element that contains a link element. Nesting elements increases the flexibility and extensibility of reports. Report elements support conditions. Conditions are actions that determine whether an element should be displayed. For example, a table element may only display if a particular feature is selected. Conditions allow DenverGIS to change the content of a report based on the selected features.

Lessons Learned

Many lessons were learned from the development process. The first lesson learned was the importance of proper planning and design. Following a standard software development life cycle, nearly half the time was spent planning the design so a prototype could be created and eventually morphed into a working framework for Denver Maps. Taking the time to prototype and test concepts avoided the need for completely changing the design once in development, as is often the case.

example report
Denver Maps reports include map, report information, and link elements.

Prior to deployment, Denver Maps was put through extensive user testing. A significant amount of time and resources was spent testing the application with both city and county employees, as well as Denver residents, to identify how the software was actually used and to see the flaws in the layout design. Users were given a set of questions about data that could be found in Denver Maps. Without seeing the application, they were asked to complete the tasks to find the answers. How these users went about answering the questions was recorded by members of the development team. Several rounds of testing occurred, and the application was modified before each round.

Before user testing was complete, the accessibility of Denver Maps was also tested using applications that helped identify barriers. Several sight-impaired people participated in user testing Denver Maps using screen readers. They helped identify where additional tags and descriptive text and links were needed.

How to market Denver Maps was a question asked many times prior to deployment. The site was first marketed internally. Denver Maps was discussed in meetings, e-mails, and demonstrations, creating a buzz about the project. Flyers were then distributed to the public at counters where customer interaction occurs. Once deployed, DenverGIS relied heavily on employees to tell customers about Denver Maps.

The result: Denver Maps has replaced almost all geographic mapping links that were previously available on the www.DenverGov.org Web site. Many agency Web sites now have links to Denver Maps. Denver Maps was deployed several months prior to GIS Day 2004. The event was used to show off the project and provide training to people visiting the department's first GIS Day celebration that was open to the public. Another significant marketing windfall occurred in November 2004 when the election commission placed a link on its Web site to Denver Map's election report. Thousands of people were exposed to Denver Maps when they used this report to locate their polling place.

Content management is one area that must not be overlooked when developing an Internet GIS site. It is important that the data presented to the public be up to date and accurate. Denver Maps relies on each agency to update and maintain its data. GIS data standards developed by DenverGIS are provided to all agencies that supply data to the corporate GIS. Using standards and a thorough data maintenance plan protects Denver Maps and other GIS applications from failing because data fields have changed or bad data is published to ArcSDE.

Conclusion

Denver Maps has become one of the most frequently visited sites in the city and county of Denver. Currently, Denver Maps averages more than 30,000 visits per month. It had more than 80,000 unique visitors during the first six months of 2005. Denver Maps received a first place in the Applications Fair at the 2005 Esri International User Conference and an honorable mention from the Public Technology Institute's 2004 Top 25 Technology Solutions awards. For more information on Denver Maps, visit www.denvergov.org/denvermaps or contact David Luhan of the city and county of Denver at denvergis@ci.denver.co.us.

Acknowledgments

Denver Maps was developed by DenverGIS in cooperation with Customer Information Services of the city and county of Denver.

About the Authors

Daniel Hauser, a GIS developer with the city and county of Denver, has a bachelor's degree in computer information systems from Devry University. He has been developing custom desktop, Web, and mobile GIS applications in both the public and private sectors for the past eight years.

A senior GIS developer with the city and county of Denver, Allan Glen is the lead developer of the Denver Maps application and has more than seven years' experience in software development. He specializes in the design, development, and management of enterprise GIS applications. He completed a B.Sc. in GIS/spatial information systems at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada.

Marcia Walker graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor's degree in geophysics and earned a master's degree in GIS at the University of Colorado, Denver. She has been a GIS analyst for five years and is working on Web development for GIS.

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