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My Mom Doesn't Want to be a GIS Expert

by Andrew on March 18, 2014

My mom doesn’t want to be a GIS expert and either does the public. It’s true that our society has become a mobile 24/7 society that has a very small attention span. We now expect access when we want it and how we want it. But what are we looking for? That’s simple, quick, and accurate answers without having to be an expert to use the tools or analyze the results. Any tool we provide the public for access to information now has to now run on a wide range of platforms and services, from home dial-up connections to the iPhone, Droid, iPad, etc. without the user needing to relearn or download an app or plug-in.
We are quickly becoming the standard for how the public likes to look for property tax and GIS data. Our clients’ public quickly became comfortable with Beacon™. Here is an example of one community’s Beacon™ use over the 2013 year. The public made over 7 million requests for information using Beacon™. Just think of the savings this has provided the community and the tax payers. If each request only saves $1.00, your community would have provided over $7,000,000 in savings by using Beacon™.  Or let’s look at the site use another way. Let’s say that each visit saves one hour of time by not having to drive to the courthouse; and that every visitor would have been $7.25 an hour of your County’s time. Last year you had 143,456 visits to the site.  
$7.25(hourly) x 143,456 (visits) = $1,040,056 saved by the community.
Also, Beacon™ doesn’t sleep. 57% of this community’s traffic (over 3million requests) happened when the local government offices were closed. Another important fact is that in 2013, nearly 80% of the time, users did not access the map. This is a very important fact for understanding what your users look for, how do they look, and what they use to view your site. Once again “My mom does not want to be a GIS expert”.
Other things to think about are the tools they use to access your data. Apple, Inc. sold 33.8m iPhones and 14.1m iPads in Q4 2013, up 25.7% and up 0.7% year-over-year respectively.  Why is this important to you? How does it relate to public access and Beacon™? 
iOS is a mobile operating system developed and distributed by Apple, Inc. and does not support the “flash” player from Adobe that is used in many other GIS websites. Beacon™ however was designed with the end user in mind, and works on any device that has access to the internet. It, also, does not require the user to download an App to use.  We also have added some intuitive designs that will even enhance the users experience more and should be released soon.
As a GIS professional, I always like to play with new toys and advanced technology. I don’t mind digging around in the tool box to find my results. However, my experience has taught me that the public is unforgiving when it comes to change and difficult-to-use tools; America is a country that centers on convenience. Make it easy, fast, affordable, reliable, and accessible; and they will reward you with many visits.
About Beacon™:
Beacon™ has seen substantial growth in our user base.  Since we’ve started over a decade ago, Beacon™ has grown to cover over 200 communities, in 12 different states. This is amazing, but what is more impressive is that Beacon™ has supported nearly a half a billion requests for information in just the past few years.
Beacon™ has been endorsed by the Indiana Association of City and Towns (IACT). A few years ago we began working with the Indiana State’s Department of Local Finance data and we now have a Beacon™ site or a Beacon™ basic site for every county in Indiana. In Iowa, we have worked with the Iowa State Association of County Auditor’s to use Beacon’s data search engine “Guidepost” to connect over 75% of the state’s TAX, CAMA, and GIS services together. In Minnesota, we have a County Computer Cooperative Property Information User Group (MCCC PIUG) that is working on combining resources to expand Beacon’s™ core functionality.