Usability Evaluation of the Spatial OLAP Visualization and Analysis Tool (SOVAT)

Peer-reviewed Article

pp. 76-95Download full article (PDF)


Increasingly sophisticated technologies, such as On-Line Analytical Processing (OLAP) and Geospatial Information Systems (GIS), are being leveraged for conducting community health assessments (CHA). Little is known about the usability of OLAP and GIS interfaces with respect to CHA. We conducted an iterative usability evaluation of the Spatial OLAP Visualization and Analysis Tool (SOVAT), a software application that combines OLAP and GIS. A total of nine graduate students and six community health researchers were asked to think-aloud while completing five CHA questions using SOVAT. The sessions were analyzed after every three participants and changes to the interface were made based on the findings. Measures included elapsed time, answers provided, erroneous actions, and satisfaction. Traditional OLAP interface features were poorly understood by participants, and combined OLAP-GIS features needed to be better emphasized. The results suggest that the changes made to the SOVAT interface resulted in increases in both usability and user satisfaction.

Practitioner’s Take Away

  • OLAP-GIS decision support systems offer potential for enhancing public health decision support in areas such as community health assessment and environmental health. If available, this type of system should be considered for use in health departments, university research settings, or private foundations.
  • OLAP and GIS by themselves are viewed as complex technology. Thus, combining OLAP and GIS presents many usability challenges that must be addressed before system implementation.
  • From our study, we suggest tailoring an OLAP-GIS interface to emphasize a systematic flow for selecting query elements (ex. numerical element > temporal element > filtering elements > geographical elements).