J6.1 Significant Gender Differences in the Usability and Understandability of a Climate Decision Support System for Forestry Stakeholders: An Eye-Tracking Assessment

Tuesday, 24 January 2017: 4:00 PM
611 (Washington State Convention Center )
Lindsay C. Maudlin, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC; and K. S. McNeal, R. Atkins, R. Boyles, C. N. Davis, and H. D. Aldridge

As part of the Pine Integrated Network: Education, Mitigation, and Adaptation Project (PINEMAP), a web-based climate decision-making tool, the PINEMAP Decision Support System (DSS) was created with the purpose of providing forestry stakeholders with climate information in an easy-to-understand format as they make decisions regarding the health and future of loblolly pine trees in a changing climate. This study uses eye tracking to assess the usability and understandability of the PINEMAP DSS. Thirty-one forestry stakeholders participated in the eye-tracking study, which consisted of free-exploration of the website, three tasks with two related multiple-choice questions per task, and short answer questions regarding participants’ familiarity with climate data. Demographic and other qualitative data were also collected. The free-exploration portion of the study allowed users to become acquainted with the website and provided insight into what users do when they are first exposed to the website (i.e., users read all of the information tabs, immediately use the tool, or demonstrate a combination of reading and using the tool). The tasks were designed in a scaffolding manner and to utilize various components of the website in order to determine how users interact with the website features, and they helped to identify which design aspects drew user attention or were salient and which confused or distracted users. Metrics that were measured include the length of time users spent navigating the climate information while completing the tasks, the accuracy of their answers, and the fixation count, the time to first fixation, and the total visit duration within several areas of interest (AOIs). Variables such as participant age, educational background, and gender were also included in a correlation analysis to determine influence on user performance on the assessed metrics. The preliminary results of this study have already directed the website designers to make changes to the PINEMAP DSS to increase its usability. Additionally, the correlation analysis revealed statistically significant differences in the eye-tracking metrics between males and females. This study can serve as a model project for utilizing eye-tracking technology during the development of climate decision management tools for a variety of end-users and stakeholders.
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