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Trust in Web GIS: the role of the trustee attributes in the design of trustworthy Web GIS applications

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Since the introduction of Xerox PARC Map Viewer, there is a high growth in the number of Web GIS (Geographical Information System) applications for public use in different contexts. These applications instruct, advise and provide the tools for spatial analysis to their users, and the people who use them depend or rely on these systems. Many of these users are non-experts who have no GIS expertise and a limited understanding of spatial data handling. These inherent characteristics of non-expert interaction establish risk and uncertainty, which are further increased due to the complexity of Web GIS interfaces. These issues of uncertainty, risk perception and dependence are all trust-related aspects. Online trust has been repeatedly identified as a major concept for online information systems and its value recognised as it influences the intentions to use and the acceptance of online systems and the overall user experience. However, there is a very limited understanding as to exactly how trust is constructed when people, especially non-experts, interact with Web GIS. To improve knowledge in this domain, this article explores the theoretical foundations on how trust can be investigated in this context. Trust studies (mainly from the e-commerce domain) suggest that a trust-oriented interface design may improve the trustworthiness of online systems, and such attention can be given to Web GIS interfaces. Such studies are reviewed and their applicability is considered in the Web GIS context, taking into consideration their special characteristics. A case study is used to discuss how some features may potentially influence the trustworthiness of Web GIS applications. This article concludes by suggesting future research directions for the implementation of a holistic approach, which is necessary to investigate trust in this context.

Keywords: HCI; WIYBY; Web GIS; trust; usability

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Computer Science,University College London, London, UK 2: Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering,University College London, London, UK

Publication date: December 1, 2011

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