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User-Centric Web Map Design?
September 30, 2003
/Mike Liebhold

What are the right questions to ask about users' experiences with new geospatial and location services?

Microsoft Research  has launched the WWMXthe World-Wide Media eXchange, (thanks Josh),  "to explore what we can do with a gazillion photos on a single database indexed by their location:" (displayed on a generic MS Mappoint Map, or on a custom MS.Net app.)
* Is there general interest in such a database? 
* Would people post their own photos to it? 
* Would anyone care about photos taken by strangers?  "

Apple hacker, Chris Thorman, (who once reverse rendered a 3d image of the MIT Media Lab with a video camera)  suggests we imagine the UNESCO World heritage panorama photos combined with Jef Raskin's fractal  prototype for a zooming human interface.. in an interface that Chris and I once worked together on ."a globally mapped spatial view of the world -- you could with a few keys and mouse clicks, you could soar around the whole world finding and viewing these heritage sites."

While Raskins' ZUI ( Zoomable User Interface) shows  photos nested in a zoomable base map,  it is still just a flash demo of one seamless nested document, with no evident designs for users to edit and add documents of their own. One of Jeff's prior hacks was similarly seamless vertically scrolling interface for the CanonCat

Matt Giger's cool Earth Browser  is a nice smooth zoomable globe, but has no facilities for users' point annotations or extensible attribute layers. Mikel Maron's new Flash based worldKit enables users to  create  new kinds of maps of geocoded weblogs, RSS feeds, and a   zoom ui are listed as future features.

Josh Schachter points out that ZUIs have been around for quite a while. Here's a Java demo of  the Piccolo ZUI the latest  incarnation of Pad++   from University of Maryland, supports zoomable text, (but not well calibrated at each level) and no zoomable maps or images.(!)

Richard Saul Wurman and his team have produced a glitzy, but oddly flat feeling graphical tour of american statisticsand issues called: Understanding USA. a  catalog of information and resources. I was suprised to find no maps!?
Wurman's city map guides are exemplary of fine design and readability. (Thanks Harvey Lehtman)

Before we design too many more map interfaces, maybe we should pause to reread Wurman's 'Making the City  Observable, or Edward R. Tufte's principles of
Visual Explanations.Without thinking too deeply we could create flawed systems like Power Point " which has been Tufte's particular target : Here's a recent NYTimes article on Tufte's criticisms of PowerPoint processed information:

" Before the fatal end of the shuttle Columbia's mission...  NASA engineers used a PowerPoint presentation to describe their investigation ... Mr. Tufte said, a crucial piece of information — that the chunk of foam was hundreds of times larger than anything that had ever been tested — was relegated to the last point on the slide, squeezed into insignificance on a frame that suggested damage to the wing was minor."

Incompletely designed maps can wreck similar damage to the contextual integrity of information in place.

IMHO, only some of the designers of the cooler new spatial web and locative media web sites or the old style GIS sites have invested sufficient thought to a user's actual experiences, on what spatial information is _really_ important,  and are building easy to use tools for users to select, combine, and present uncluttered spatial information accurately, artfully, and in the right context.
</flame off >

Here's a good article from Boxes and Arrows,  called Maps 101You are Here with links, by Alta Vista guy, Lee McCormack,

If you are further interested in human factors and near a high speed net connection on or after this friday, October 3,  Check out the live (or archived) video stream of  Bill Moggridge's Stanford seminar on People, Computers, and Design ( See Computer Science 547  here.)

Bill Moggridge a founder of IDEO, a consulting firm dedicated to the  user-centered design of products, services and environments.and is working on a book titled "Designing Interactions",... has been  interviewing some of the Interaction Designers who are pioneers in the  field, ...[and] has recorded the interviews on video, and will show samples from  his tapes, with some comments.

* Desktop and Mouse: Stu Card
* Designing: Bill Verplank
* Playing: Will Wright and Brenda Laurel
* Simply Palm: Rob Haitani
* Searching: Larry Page and Sergey Brin

 You can read more details here





Previous:
Spatial Dataland - 1977
User-Centric Map Design?
Google Location Search
Geosnaps & Gadgeteers
Mobile Gaming  Ignition
OGC & Java loc  Specs
N5M Tactical Cartography
Geowalls and Cityclusters
Overture Location Search
Mapping Sensor Networks
Wireless WebGIS Workshop
Real Spatial Spammers?
Websigns Location Links
Web Map 'Oscars'
Psycho-Geos in New York
Wildland Geomatics
Agcountry Geomatics
Cool Spatial Blogs 0803
Geo Metadata Pollution
Euro Cartos and Locatives
Std Geo-coordinates?
Google Microlocal Maps
Hypertags, Ibuttons, Geovectors
Harvey Lehtman's Hits
Geospatial Libraries
Geocode Everything
Digital Topo Reviews
Geo  Photoblogging
Semantic Geosearch
Classified Internet Maps
Web Map Development
Tom Kalil's Picks
Google Mapquest
Digitalearth.org Geonews
Cybergeography Research

Aspen Moviemap
Geoscopes at Planetwork
Earth Observatory Webby
Cool Geo Aps from the CC

Geospatial Religions
RFID Tracking Maps
Wireless and GPS Games
Geocoded Realities
Espresso, No Wireless
Radio Frequency Fog
RFID Trees On the Web
KPIG on starhill
Online Ecosystems
Skyline Bears
Internet Protocols Via Satellite