Socio-technical PSS development to improve functionality and usability - Sketch planning using a Maptable

G.A. Vonk, A. Ligtenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Planning Support Systems (PSS) for collaborative sketch planning have not become widely used in planning practice. Important reasons are inadequate functionality and usability. In this article we question if following a socio-technical method in PSS development could lead to PSS with better functionality and usability than following a traditional systems engineering method, as is sometimes suggested in literature. The former method involves close cooperation with users, whereas the latter does not. This article describes an empirical study of this question. The article describes the development, application and evaluation of two PSS for sketch planning, one developed by following the traditional systems engineering method and the other by following the socio-technical method. The PSS integrate drawing and sketching with basic geographic information system functionality and use an innovative hardware interface called Maptable. The evaluation results show that the traditionally developed PSS was immediately rejected by planning practitioners due to poor functionality and usability, whereas the PSS developed with a socio-technical approach was much more acceptable. Intense cooperation with users in agreement with the socio-technical method appeared to improve the analysis of planning tasks and user needs, leading to a PSS with a sophisticated and dedicated architecture. This PSS was considered more functional and usable than the traditionally developed PSS. In addition, the socio-technically developed PSS offers some benefits over conventional planning methods. In current state the PSS is suitable for use by professionals, and it is being further developed aiming to make it suitable for supporting collaborative planning with citizens
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-174
JournalLandscape and Urban Planning
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • public-participation
  • support-systems
  • requirements
  • gis
  • visualization
  • information
  • design
  • gap

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