Towards a User-Centered Design of a Weather Forecasting Decision Support Tool
Incorporating usability evaluation into the iterative design of decision support tools, such as Hazard Services, can improve system efficiency, effectiveness, and user experience.
Hazard Services is an in-development software toolkit that integrates information management, hazard alerting, and communication functions into a single user interface. When complete, National Weather Service forecasters across the United States will use the Hazard Services for operational issuance of weather and hydrologic alerts, making the system an instrumental part of the threat management process. As a new decision support tool, incorporating an understanding of user requirements and behavior is an important part of building a system that is usable, allowing users to perform work-related tasks efficiently and effectively. This work discusses the Hazard Services system and findings from a usability evaluation with a sample of end users. Usability evaluations are frequently used to support software and website development, and can provide feedback on a system’s efficiency of use, effectiveness, and learnability. In the present study, a user testing evaluation assessed task performance in terms of error rates, error types, response time, and subjective feedback from a questionnaire. A series of design recommendations were developed based on the evaluation’s findings. The recommendations not only further the design of Hazard Services, but they may also inform the designs of other decision support tools used in weather and hydrologic forecasting.