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User-Centered Design Helps Geothermal Community Share Data

Case Study

National Geothermal Data System

Screen showing the National Geothermal Data System website
Geothermal map
Wireframe of the National Geothermal Data System website

The Problem

The US has more geothermal capacity than any other country, however, the process from exploration to productive power is risky, expensive and inefficient. Part of the challenge is a lack of reliable and comprehensive geothermal data to determine sites with geothermal potential. Historically geothermal data is not digitized (think old maps, rock samples and field notebooks!) or uniformly formatted, and spread around systems in academic, industry and government agencies.

Under direction of the Department of Energy, we worked together with partners in academia, industry and government to create a one-stop GIS-based portal with digital documents and datasets to help determine geothermal potential and accelerate the development of U.S. geothermal resources. The National Geothermal Data System (NGDS) was the result.

Website screen captures

Homepage and map interface of the new NGDS website.

The Solution

Everything In One Place

Decades of geothermal data have been recorded and filed away in notebooks, binders, boxes and filing cabinets across industry, academia and government. NGDS provides an unprecedented improvement as a first online one-stop experience for finding, sharing and contributing digital geothermal data.

Map Based Interface

Users can easily find datasets by searching for a specific location or zooming into an area on the map. Map layers let users visualize thematic data such as geological features, environmental data, land use, ownership and more.

Robust Search

Users can find data by simple keyword and geographic searches. An easy to use faceted search and navigation helps users narrow down results by common categories such as topic, audience, author and data format.

Data Contributions

An easy to use interface supports academic researchers, private industry, and government agencies in contributing their data to NGDS. Hundreds of datasets are contributed every month, incrementally increasing the value of the system.

Developer Portal

A developer portal supports a suite of tools to encourage the developer community to build third party open-source applications, and utilize NGDS data in new and innovative ways. 

Help and Plain Talk

While geothermal energy is a scientific and complex topic, user research indicated that standardized and plain talked language helps all user groups be more effective with the system. Throughout the interface and help sections content is plain talked, optimized for the web and easy to understand.