The smoke is rising but where is the fire? Exploring effective online map design for wildfire warnings

Yinghui Cao, Bryan J. Boruff, Ilona M. McNeill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


The current study sought to offer guidance for developing effective web-based mapping tools for wildfire warnings by identifying (1) the important content for facilitating individuals’ decision-making, and (2) the optimal interface design for ensuring usability and ease of information access. A map-based warning tool was prototyped in the Australian context, followed by a usability and effectiveness evaluation through individual interviews and verbal protocol analysis to assess participants’ interaction with the mapping interface and information in response to the simulated warning scenario. The results demonstrated variations in participants’ approaches to wildfire warning response, revealing varied information needs. Specifically, most participants relied on their own assessment of the prospective threat, requiring specific wildfire-related information before eliciting a response. In contrast, the decision of a minority of the participants was motivated by response guidance from agencies, and accurate wildfire information was less important for their response. Imperative information for both types of residents therefore needs to be highlighted in a map-based warning tool to cater to a wide audience. Furthermore, a number of heuristics were identified for designing effective interactive functions to facilitate the control of, and access to, the various maps and textual information presented on the map-based warning interface.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1473-1501
Number of pages29
JournalNatural Hazards
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017


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