Usability and Experience of the Creative Industries Through Heuristic Evaluation of Flight Software for Mapping and Photogrammetry with Drones
This work presents a heuristic analysis and evaluation of the main programs of mesh or mosaic flight plans for mapping and photogrammetry. The objective of this study was to identify the best designs linked to certain factors and usability elements to avoid errors and identify opportunities for optimization in the design of the Ground Control System (GCS) software. The GCS, through a graphical user interface (GUI), provides an advanced indoor navigation system for the drone, which was developed within the framework of the H2020 European Project AiRT (Arts Indoor RPAS Technology Transfer) (Definition of AIRT, chiefly Scottish: compass point).
SMEs represent 85% of the stakeholders in the creative industry sector in Europe. They face competition from large companies and often encounter the challenge and need to adapt cutting-edge information and communication technologies (ICTs) with limited resources. For this reason, ICT tools, and in particular technological innovation, are essential for increasing the competitiveness of creative industries, because they expand the creative possibilities and improve the efficiency in all sectors (European Commission 2015).
An indoor positioning system (IPS), based on ultra-wide-band (UWB) technology. This system allows safe navigation of drones indoors, providing movement and positioning information to a few centimetres on all axes. This can be achieved due to an improved update rate of up to 240 Hz, a four-antenna approach, and adapted positioning algorithms.
Software that allows the reconstruction of the indoor space (3D model) where the recording will take place. This allows the creative space to be analysed beforehand and the flight plan to be designed and executed in a safe way.
GCS software, which provides an advanced navigation system through the GUI. It also includes active safety measures, with the possibility of planning the flight and designing the audiovisual project.
A drone with ready-to-use commercial (COST) element integration on an aerial platform that fulfils the latest passive security measures at a reduced price, integrating a professional camera that operates with 360° rotation both at the top and at the bottom of the drone.
In addition, the value proposition covers a wide range of issues relevant to the target segment of the creative industries: price, security, operation, usability, and onboard technologies. All these aim to offer additional services and are designed to provide a positive customer experience.
2 Methodology Developed in the Design of the Ground Control System Software
The aim of the AiRT project is to generate an innovative tool that focuses on effectively understanding and solving the real needs of the creative industry. In the specific case of the design of the GCS software and GUI, ISO 13407:1999 provides a guide to achieving quality in use by integrating iterative tasks into user-centred design (UCD). UCD considers this as multidisciplinary work, which includes human factors and knowledge as well as ergonomic techniques, with the objective of optimizing the effectiveness and efficiency of the work environment and neutralizing the possible adverse effects of its management (ISO 1999).
2.1 First Phase—Empathize—and Second Phase—Define
In the specific case of the development of the GCS software and the GUI, in the first phase of the project, known as empathize, three focus groups were carried out in Spain, the United Kingdom, and Belgium, from which information was obtained on thirteen different sectors of the creative industries. This technique constituted an effective qualitative tool to discover the desires, motivations, values, and experiences of our users (Hinton 2004). As a result, during the define phase, a need analysis was carried out through qualitative content analysis and social network analysis (SNA). Therefore, manual coding and categorization of qualitative data (Santamarina et al. 2018) were applied, which formed the basis for the analysis of the functionality of the program executed in the GCS, the functionality of which is provided to the human end-user through the GUI.
2.2 Third Phase—Ideate
In the third phase, based on the synthesis of the information obtained in the focus groups, written scripts were prepared and then transferred to storyboards representing the possible functionalities of the GCS software in different creative scenarios. These helped to communicate the main ideas and needs more clearly. Storyboards, also termed “presentation scenarios”, are image sequences that show the relationship between the user’s actions or inputs and the results of the system, making it easier for the design team to understand them (Maguire and Bevan 2002). This technique can help to control the process of creating solutions and to identify different variables to break down large problems into smaller ones that can be evaluated and solved better (Both 2010). In this way, from the storyboards, the requirements were extracted, which allowed us to obtain, on the one hand, the concrete functionalities to be implemented in the GCS software and, on the other hand, the definition of elements related to the usability aspects of the GUI.
At the same time, the requirements of the GCS software were defined based on the needs of the creative industries. A documentary investigation of 29 flight plan software programs was carried out with the objective of identifying the solutions available in the market that are similar to our product to gain a more objective perspective on the usability aspects and final design of the GUI. The main tool used for the development of this analysis was a heuristic evaluation (Molich and Nielsen 1990), allowing the analysis of the main usability components of flight plan software by experts and focusing the study on the variables ease of learning, efficiency, quality of being remembered, effectiveness, and satisfaction (Nielsen 2012).
2.3 Fourth Phase—Prototype
From the user interface model generated in the online tool NinjaMok© and the graphical design proposal of each of the windows, a software prototype was developed that implemented the functionalities of the AiRT system. It was based on the prioritized requirements, with the aim of visualizing the solutions and identifying possible improvements.
2.4 Fifth Phase—Tests
In the last phase, end-users made use of the prototypes, based on the selection of scenarios relevant to the creative industries, in the three participating countries. The objective of this stage was to identify failures or to provide new improvements through the participation action research tool (PAR). The purpose of this technique is to obtain relevant data from experts that allow the subsequent interpretation and analysis of the facts based on the experiences (Santamarina et al. 2017). The PAR was divided into two phases. In the first phase, a user test was developed, first from the user guide and then from the prototype. In both cases, the dynamics were filmed with the aim of carrying out a subsequent analysis using qualitative data analysis software. This technique is based on the observation of the way in which a group of users carries out a series of tasks mandated by the evaluator, analysing the usability problems that they face. Finally, in the second phase, the heuristic evaluation of the AiRT system was carried out with the aim of identifying potential usability problems, checking for compliance with previously established usable design principles (heuristic principles) (Wilson 2014).
3 Analysis of the Accessibility and Compatibility of the Flight Plan Software
4 Heuristic Evaluation of Flight Plan Software
Heuristic evaluation consists of the study and evaluation of an interface by experts, based on a set of previously defined design principles and standards. It is characterized by its fast and economic analysis, since it involves only one or several experts, who provide different answers based on the same set of rules. These standards, which serve as the basis for evaluation, are called usability principles. According to the ISO standard 9241-11, usability is defined as “the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use” (ISO/IEC 1998).
The objective of this study was to identify the best designs linked to certain factors and elements of usability to avoid errors and identify opportunities for optimization in the design of the Ground Control System software and the graphical user interface of the AiRT system.
The experts were provided with a checklist, which contained a set of questions that assessed usability by blocks in relation to accessibility, identity, navigation, content, consistency, shortcuts, and responses to actions (Wilson 2014). Each variable had to be rated between ‘1’, the lowest score, and ‘5’, the highest rating. The analysis was performed through the viewing of video tutorials or the actual use of the applications. Only the eMotion Sensefly software, as it was linked to the purchase of the equipment (thus, it was not accessible), and the DroidPlanner2 software (discontinued) could not be analysed.
The combined use of the design thinking methodology together with user-centred design facilitated the construction of the Ground Control System (GCS) software and graphical user interface (GUI), taking into account the user experience.
The software analysis of flight plans facilitated the selection of the programs to be analysed and the preparation of the checklist, which was subsequently completed by the experts. The heuristic evaluation provided an approach to the best designs linked to certain factors and elements of usability of the main software available on the market. This provided the creative participants with ideas and solutions for the development of the GUI of the AiRT RPAS.
The software that was ranked in first place is DJI Go, with an average rating of 4.2 out of 5. It offers a minimalist, easy-to-use interface that displays the most basic data for easy and safe flying. The menus are well distributed, offering an excellent user experience. In the second place is the Pix4D software, with an average rating of 4 out of 5, providing a simple and clean graphical user interface that simplifies and facilitates its use. In the third and fourth places are again software from DJI, DJI Ground Station and GS Pro, with an average rating of 3.9 and 3.8 out of 5, respectively. DJI Ground Station stands out for being quite complete and offering multiple options and tools, although its aesthetic and outdated design compared with the DJI Go product leads to a value loss. On the other hand, GS Pro is prominent for being highly intuitive for any type of user, thus reducing the entry barrier for beginners.
The project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 732433. Reference: H2020-ICT-2016-2017.
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