Wanted to make a general remark on the S3 platform, especially in terms of usability. There are a number of things that are lacking in terms of usability friendliness.
Keywords: simplify, homogenize, organize, improve user-friendliness
1) The platform does not seem to take into consideration what type of users there will be that will use the platform. Remember that the platform will address people like public servants who are under pressure, they don’t have too much time to try to ‘figure out’ or understand how things work, or that it does not feel intuitive to use. They will leave very soon. Since the platform is supposed to guide also ‘novice’ users it is important that you recognize yourself where you are on across the platform (e.g. the S3 platform website, app home page and the app itself) :
a. The jump in design from the web-based site/ platform to the ‘About’ page and the application is quite big: except from the top bar that it is Online S3, there is no familiarity, there is a different background colour, not to speak of different font type and size. Imagine you are in Outlook and when you open a new email it would look like Gmail. To provide the font type, size and colour to those programming the about and app sites should not be a difficult thing as these are set standards.
b. Numbering: once the apps have their set numbering, e.g. 2.4 Benchmarking, when you go from the website of the S3 platform, the numbering should follow suit in the title to the ‘About’ S3 platform page of that application the application, e.g. ‘2.4 Benchmarking – About the application’. This clearly indicates where you are. For 2.4 Benchmarking you have it in the thread in the upper right corner but not for ‘Vision Sharing’, but still it’s to ‘hidden’. See screenshots below.
c. To many documents to read through: again it will take too much time as it feels ‘burdensome’ to go through.
d. To many apps: e.g. 6.4 Social Media Analysis, what real value does it bring to the user? Social media is based on habits and recourses, e.g. a region like Bavaria is wealthy and the public administration that most probably have more dedicated recourses to communication and people working on it full time with it. Hence, they have more time to post information on social media; now take a region which does not have the same resources will not be able to post on social media, or even if they have any dedicated communication strategy and resources at all. So the comparison does not become fair. While statistics on how many, i.e., PhD students you have in the region per million inhabitants is an indicator that is more ‘objective’. It is very questionable about the scientific value of social media facts as it can so easily be skewed. Furthermore, I do not see how the app would “strengthening and widening the participation of and interaction with citizens”. Why would a citizen get interested or involved in the S3 process? S3 is for stakeholders, they need to be ensured that they are informed so that they can participate in the process, and ensure that the best S3 strategy is developed as possible.
There are also overlaps between apps, commented by my colleagues. Simplify! Really look into what is essential to the process of creating an S3 strategy. Put yourself into the shoes of the user. They need start working with the platform asap.
e. What is the idea of having apps that just lists links to templates and external platforms, e.g. 1.1 Vision sharing? That is not an app. Again, these can be easily listed on the platform as documents and recommended tools. There are also some issues with the providing hyperlinks to external platforms:
I. Why are certain external platforms, e.g. Evenbrite, Infogram … ? Why are these chosen? Do not think it is appropriate
to promote specific profit-making companies.
II. The user gets ‘thrown’ out from the S3 platform that can create two negative reactions: 1) its another new platform
that they have to learn about (and spend time on); 2) the fact they are thrown out to another website gives the feeling
that – ‘oh, this is too complicated with all these sites and pages and external platforms …’.
2) In terms of Phase 2 and the SWOT ‘app,’ I have commented in previously. The idea is that, again, despite a very good background information page on phase 2 – http://www.s3platform.eu/2-analysis-of-context, you need to think of the user that might not be so familiar with the process. SWOT is a method, telling the user that the purpose of phase 2 is to find the strength and weaknesses of the region, what are the potentials, etc. Many people are familiar with SWOT, something they can relate to. SWOT maybe does not work as an app but should be more highlighted as a method that the other apps feed with information. Or maybe SWOT is the app for phase 2 and the other are kind of ‘sub’ apps (2.1-2.6) that should provide the information needed to conduct the SWOT.
As it currently looks, it is well explained what the phase is about “The aim of this phase is to gain relevant information about the region, other related regions and the connections the region has internationally”. Apps 2.1 till 2.6 are the tools that provide you with the data but does not put the data in context to each other, and much data from the different apps will have an impact on each other. The risk is that the user will analyse the information that they receive separately from each app as it looks now and will miss the purpose of the phase or will miss important correlations between the information provided.
Suggestion is that on the S3 Platform webpage (www.s3platform.eu/2-analysis-of-context), before the title ‘Online S3 Analysis of context tools’, there could be a separate section on SWOT and at the end something like ‘Below our online tools that will provide data and information for the SWOT analysis’.
My comments are based on both personal and professional experience from the business of developing and selling applications for mobile devices and the internet.