GEOG 583
Geospatial System Analysis and Design



The first step of any design activity should involve efforts to understand what the new GISystem needs to produce, who its users are, and what context the system will work within. This phase of design is called Needs Assessment (also called Requirement Analysis in some cases). Defining the "needs" of the new system up front allows you to identify key design issues before implementation starts, and also provides a set of benchmarks against which you can evaluate the final system.

This week, we will explore several methods used for conducting Needs Assessment and talk about how they relate to the specific quirks of designing a GISystem.

Scene of Hurricane Katrina damage, wreckage and a boat sideways in front of a house
Figure 2.01: Damage from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 resulted in the need for a wide range of new GISystems to support disaster recovery.
Credit: A. Robinson © Penn State is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

The picture above highlights a real-world example. It's easy to imagine how you could use GIS to recover from a disaster, but it's essential to define exactly which tasks the GIS must perform before development gets started in earnest. The tasks might include the use of portable devices to capture detailed data in the field, or they might involve regional planning and forecasting activities. Both options would suggest very different systems.


At the successful completion of Lesson 2, students should be able to:

  • Discuss the advantages of scenario-based design and persona mapping and/or create a mash-up of how they can be used together to identify and respond to a design or analysis need
  • Explain the problem, the solution, and the user analysis for your database design and project proposal
  • Discuss the application of anthropological methods for design impacting future GIS interfaces


Lesson 2 is one week in length. Please refer to the syllabus or the course calendar for specific assignment instructions and due dates.


If you have questions now or at any point during this week, please feel free to post them in the General Questions Discussion Forum. While you are there, feel free to post your own responses and comments if you are able to help out a classmate.