Designing better map interfaces

Many systems, especially those in control rooms such as mobilisation for the emergency services, use maps as a key part of the user interface.  However getting the usability of these maps is not always simple.

There are many different aspects to get right - the normal 'point & click' interface doesn't make navigation easy - the combination of dragging, centering and zooming can be cumbersome.

But also getting the map itself to be readable, given the potential volume of information, can be complex.  The most successful approach to this is through layering of information and Google Maps has used a number of methods that have cracked some of the problems.


For city labels, Google gives each label a white background eliminating the map detail behind the label.  It also uses more classes or types of label than other mapping systems.  Google also uses a lighter shade for the labels of the lower classes.  These all combine to make the labels on Google Maps very readable and reduce the apperance of visual clutter.

Google Maps also applies some decluttering tricks around the major urban areas and seemingly around the spacing of cities.

To see visual demonstration of these methods from Google, head to www.41latitude.com/post/2072504768/google-maps-label-readability

So some interesting lessons about clutter for designers of all maps.

Anyone seen any other good examples?

Labels: , , ,

DESIGN AND THE HUMAN FACTOR: Designing better map interfaces

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Designing better map interfaces

Many systems, especially those in control rooms such as mobilisation for the emergency services, use maps as a key part of the user interface.  However getting the usability of these maps is not always simple.

There are many different aspects to get right - the normal 'point & click' interface doesn't make navigation easy - the combination of dragging, centering and zooming can be cumbersome.

But also getting the map itself to be readable, given the potential volume of information, can be complex.  The most successful approach to this is through layering of information and Google Maps has used a number of methods that have cracked some of the problems.


For city labels, Google gives each label a white background eliminating the map detail behind the label.  It also uses more classes or types of label than other mapping systems.  Google also uses a lighter shade for the labels of the lower classes.  These all combine to make the labels on Google Maps very readable and reduce the apperance of visual clutter.

Google Maps also applies some decluttering tricks around the major urban areas and seemingly around the spacing of cities.

To see visual demonstration of these methods from Google, head to www.41latitude.com/post/2072504768/google-maps-label-readability

So some interesting lessons about clutter for designers of all maps.

Anyone seen any other good examples?

Labels: , , ,

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