Q&A with Hurricane Expert (interviewing as looking)
We were fortunate to have Brian McNoldy, Senior Research Associate at University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, come to our class on Sept 12 and share his insights on the NHC website, key information that both experts and general users could benefits from accessing on the NHC website, constraints of NHC as a government website and to engage in a general Q&A by our students. Brian’s research is specifically on how to better predict the path of hurricanes, thus he is extremely knowledgeable on the subject of hurricanes and the how to use the NHC website. He also hosts his own blog where to provides regular updates about storm patterns and he has created scripts to generate his own maps. For example, his Global Tropical Cyclone Tracks map shows all active tropical cyclones in one map (rather than limiting it to specific segments of the globe).
One key thing we all came to realize is how NHC is trying to serve a large audience and doing so with limited resources. Many commercial entities (think weatherbug.com, Weather Underground, weather.com, regional/local news, etc.) use NHC’s website as the source of their information and then have their different ways to present this information as part of their business model. While we as users tend to want to see information relevant to us on a hyperlocal level, this is not really within NHC’s scope but rather covered by weather.gov. In fact, it was hard to see, but on the NHC website, you can actually find out your local forecast by entering your location in a small field in the top right corner and submitting it to then be taken to weather.gov.
Also according to Brian, there is some great informative information for laypeople, for example learning about storm surge. The class saw potential for further developing the education resources to be more user-friendly for a general population.
Statement Starters (as understanding)
Using the Luma HCD framework, we used this opportunity of having an expert like Brian in the room to make a list of issues. Continuing down the education path, students identified a lack of education re: hurricanes and weather concepts/terminology as a barrier to a general population. Also, they saw a general issue with general users not knowing how to interpret maps and graphics that scientists greatly value, ultimately bringing up a possible opportunity to redesign the site to optimize the experience for an expert user vs. a layperson.
After creating a list of issues, we then used them to complete the following statements:
- “How might we ______”
- “In what ways might we ______”
- “How to ______”
The following questions were then used to brainstorm possible opportunities for improving the web’s usability and overall user experience:
- How might we improve education regarding hurricanes, storm surges, etc.?
- How might we (general users) better understand hurricane terminology?
- In what ways might we let people know to care about storm surge?
- How to (get general users more proficient at) reading maps?
- How to (get general users more proficient at) understanding what the hurricane track forecast cone means?
- Information Architecture *
- How to reduce navigation confusion?
- How to create entry points for experts that are different for general public?
- In what ways might we store presets specific to a user?
The education angle was of interest and certainly remains important, but tackling information architecture and navigation is particularly appropriate for the scope of our classes.