I have had the pleasure in the last year or so to speak with many municipal GIS staff and departments. In some cities, GIS and mapping is limited, in others there are a myriad of applications to serve citizens and internal staff using GIS. GIS can be a valuable tool in sharing information with your citizens, the trick is making sure that the investment is worth it. Is the juice, worth the squeeze? How can we measure this? Here are 5 key Metrics you can use to determine if you GIS department is effectively communicating with your populace.

1. Session Length

Short sessions can be good and bad.

Tracking the traffic to your web applications can be done at a base level by using google analytics. This allows you to demonstrate that yes in fact, this application we paid to have built is in use. The next logical step is to understand how the user engages. How long do they spend in the application, which actions do they perform. Perhaps our application is in use showing the capital projects in our area and engineers of all kinds spends hours a day looking it over. Perhaps our story map of the tourist attractions, despite its visual appeal, is rarely viewed by our citizens or unknown to our tourists.

2. Session Composition

What makes up a successful session in your application?

Tracking the length of sessions and the number of activities in each session by click, pan and zoom will illuminate whether you are reaching your target audience. Perhaps, we need to invest more time in adding value to the capital projects map, perhaps we need to advertise our story map in conjunction with local tourism efforts.

3. Bounce Rates

When evaluating the success of an effort in GIS, you need to understand the message of the application to the target audience and the medium it is used on. A Bounce rate indicates a user visiting and loading a map, and then performing zero interactions with the map. This can mean a few different things. If the user quickly found the information they need on the map, then left, we have success, with a bounce. However, if the purpose of the map is more in depth, for example a marker click is necessary to reveal the information the user is after the bounce is a poor result.

4. Device Type

Tracking your bounce rates across device type helps you understand the user and make better design decisions. So again if we are looking at a map for the purposes of seeing large capital projects we would expect low bounce rates, long sessions and marker clicks. In the instance of a store locator map, we would expect and want a bounce rate that is higher. The user should not be required to click, pan or zoom to acquire the info they need.

5. Layer Performance

When users visit a map for information and are faced with a slow loading times or misbehaving tiles that do not load at all, user engagement drops and we struggle to retain the user. If we truly want our investment in GIS to be worthwhile we need to keep track of map behaviour by layer. Which layers are most popular? Which load slowly? What can be done to correct this?

Justifying the spend

There are a few different ways to use the above metrics. If you are already heavily invested in GIS technologies and have a strong GIS department then tracking the above metrics will make them stronger, and will provide accountability in their work. Perhaps you are trying out new story maps or templates, which work better. Perhaps you are monitoring you spend on advertising of the maps and want to know if this spend was effective in creating meaningful traffic to your maps. If you are considering increasing the GIS spend in your organization then tracking these metrics on the old work and the new shows the change in user behaviour and backs up your investment.