Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Map Usability

For a research project I am working on, I am interested in what your favorite usability issues are regarding using online and mobile maps.

Some thoughts:

Everyone is using Google mashups to add maps to their websites. It looks the same, works the same, returns the same kind of data, etc. Is this a good thing?

You spend a lot of money on GIS software, you put a lot of thought into figuring out what data to use, what level of detail, etc, you take advantage of all the nifty little usability enhancements that ESRI put into the latest version, you you publish your map on your website. Are people using it as intended? Are people having trouble? What indicators are you using to find out?

How often does your in car GPS system get you where you want to go? Can you rely on it enough to keep your paper maps at home?

Can you provide examples of web-based maps that you find to be incredibly useful and usable?


I'll keep you updated on what I find, but feel free to add your comments here.



At 10:28 AM, Blogger Noreen Whysel said...

I posted this to the GISMONYC list and got a few interesting responses that I will summarize below:



With Tools on Web, Amateurs Reshape Mapmaking


From Susan Fowler on GISMONYC:

There was an interesting paper on map usability at this year's Usability Professionals Association. The researcher compared the usability of north-up, head-up, 3-D and paper maps. (Head up and north up are what you usually see on GPS systems.)

The paper is available online at Look for Thomas Porathe.


From Bryan McBride on GISNY-L:

After years of working with the industry leading software- both in government and the private sector- I find it very refreshing and exciting working with open source and freeware software.

You allude to the fact that as map accessibility increases, quality decreases. As data collection, map making, and map publishing become easier and especially cheaper, cartography is no longer limited to those with extensive training and big budgets.

It is important to remember that all maps have their limitations and while data collected at a scale of 1:100,000 may be fine for mapping rivers and lakes, that scale just won't cut it for geocoding addresses.

What I have found is that new and open technology such as the Google Maps API has opened the door for many aspiring cartographers. Virtually instantaneous access to global high resolution imagery via WMS and AJAX technology, combined with free and highly accurate address matching has broken down the barriers to creating powerful, efficient and inexpensive GIS solutions. You no longer need ArcGIS and ArcIMS to create a web mapping application.


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