Sunday, April 08, 2012

Help Making Location Based Services Relevant

I've been reviewing the recent literature related to location based services and locative media and came across an incredibly useful article for those building or refining such apps. The article, Criteria of geographic relevance: An experimental study, will be published soon in the International Journal of Geographical Information Science (but is freely available in a pre-print version). The authors, Stefano De Sabbata and Tumasch Reichenbacher are experts in geographic relevance, mobile information retrieval, and location based services.

It's worth reading their entire article, but they include a summary table that lists all the types of information relevance and ones specifically applicable to mobile, geolocative functionality. Relevance, in this sense, refers to the degree to which information returned by a digital service satisfies various user needs and desires. (Read more about information relevance on Wikipedia).

In my efforts to keep updated on location based services, I've noticed that many apps focus on the relevance criterion of proximity to the neglect of all other (possibly more pertinent) factors. De Sabbata and Reichenbacher offer an invaluable list of other factors that developers should consider for more effective and engaging user experiences. Even better, their work is based on actual user studies.

Here is their table of relevance criteria, based on the classes of: properties (of the object), geography, information, and presentation (of the end result, to the user).

topicalityspatial proximityspecificityaccessibility
appropriatenesstemporal proximityavailabilityclarity
  visibilityreliabilitypresentation quality
  association rulesvariety 

For details on a particular concept, the article has useful explanations.

Although location based services are, by definition, preoccupied with location (i.e. spatial proximity) this list offers guidance on other criteria to add that would greatly improve current locative apps.

This list seems definitive to me, but if anyone has a criteria to add or refine, I'd love to hear it below.

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