Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Communication and Arts


Faculty of Education and Arts

First Advisor

Dr Stuart Medley

Second Advisor

Dr Danielle Brady

Third Advisor

Dr Barnard Clarkson


This research describes the redesign of Landgate’s FireWatch service – a web-based map application that uses data derived from satellites to provide near real-time bushfire information. FireWatch was originally built for emergency services personnel, but recent Australian state government inquiries have called for individuals, households and communities to have independent access to bushfire information. Therefore, it was necessary to redesign FireWatch with a new remote community-based audience in mind. The thesis describes multiple iterations of a user-centred action research design process that resulted in a publicly accessible web application known as MyFireWatch. Due to delayed access to actual community–based users, scenario-based design and a personas frame-work were created to consider the user’s perspective. These personas then informed the recruitment of community-based users in the remote Western Australian town of Kununurra. Working with these remote community-based users quantified what functionality provided by FireWatch could be useful to this new audience. It also revealed that the information presented to them could be used in unanticipated ways and that satellite information can assist users in identifying key landmarks. However, user feedback indicated a lack of awareness of bushfire map applications in Australia, including FireWatch. Results from an online questionnaire verified that the design process undertaken resulted in a usable interface that met the needs of the majority of users, although several participants noted that the interface was slow to respond to user input. There was significant support for user-sourced fire information, although several participants raised concerns of how the information would be verified and how user-sourced information would impact the usability of the application. Participants used social media but were also highly reliant on traditional media and word of mouth – something that Landgate will need to consider in future efforts to increase awareness of MyFireWatch Two frameworks arose from the research undertaken: a pattern language for presenting map-based hazard information and a personas framework for designing for remote Australian community based users.


Paper Location