Haven´t read the first part? Read it here
Maps and map-like representations are wonderfully suitable for the presentation of everything that has a spatial reference. Things have a spatial reference if a concrete location or a geographical area can be assigned to them. With the help of maps, complex facts become understandable and can be grasped more quickly. In this series of articles, we will clarify what to look out for when creating maps for the internet.
6. The search for the truth
Maps can have a higher power of persuasion than other communication media. They seem strangely credible to us because they were originally intended to represent the earth as it is. This feature can also be deliberately exploited for advertising or political purposes. Already during the production of a map, the unjustified deception of the user should, therefore, be avoided.
Tip 6: Check maps critically for their truth content!
7. The earth in 2D
The previous tip is accompanied by a basic “problem” with maps. A two-dimensional map is inherently flawed. It is impossible to transfer the 3D shape of the earth lossless into two dimensions. A well-known example to illustrate this phenomenon is the peeling of an orange into individual segments. There is no way to present these segments flat on a sheet of paper without tearing them. Areas of the earth are therefore transferred into the plane with the aid of various projections. The coordinate systems derived from the type of projection therefore always show errors in at least one property (surface shape, surface size, angular ratio). The Web Mercator projection, which is very popular for web maps also distorts the earth. Although it has many advantages for the use in global representations, surface sizes are sometimes greatly distorted. Greenland thus grows to the size of Africa, the regions around the North and South Pole cannot be mapped with it at all. Google Maps has recently solved this problem by displaying a globe at very low zoom levels.
Tip 7: Be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of different coordinate systems and select them according to the application!
8. Where am I?
A user must be able to do one thing above everything else on a map – orientate himself! Where am I? What do I want to see? How do I find the information at the places I am looking for? How well users find their way on a web map depends strongly on their respective habits and experiences. In principle, it is a good idea to use familiar examples for design and interaction in order to make it easier for the first user of a map to get started. However, the creativity of the map manufacturer should not be neglected. Therefore: stand out – yes, but not at the expense of usability.
Tip 8: Make the map clear!
9. Who likes it colorful?
The subject of color perception is always associated with many subjective question marks. It is clear that color is one of the most important design elements. On maps, too, their use is usually indispensable and sensible. The difficulties lie in the fact that colors are always emotionally charged. For example, most people associate red with warmth and blue with cold. Temperature maps that do not follow this logic can only be captured much more slowly by many. However, this is learned behavior that can vary depending on culture and experience. Age and possible visual disturbances also play a role in the way we perceive colors. It is therefore very important to define your user group as precisely as possible. A map for children should work with strong and contrasting colors. The same representation could quickly lead to sensory overload in adults and distract them from the map’s message.
Tip 9: Use colors correctly!
10. Real eye-catchers
Of course, a web map should attract attention, be catchy and look exciting. However, the actual purpose of the map should never be forgotten. Do I just want to decorate my homepage or does the map contain the essential information the visitor is looking for? The demands on functions and design are completely different. A map that is primarily about interaction (more about this in part 3) and the conveyance of information should still look good. It can happen, however, that the demand for correctness and function pushes exciting designs into the background. The same applies in other cases, of course, vice versa.
Tip 10: Adapt the map design to the purpose!
Since web maps are very well suited as a magnet for attention, they are – if they´re well done – a real enrichment for some websites.
Soon the third and last part of this article series for even better maps will be published here.
Do you have any questions, comments or ideas on how we can further improve Map2Fly? We are looking forward to your feedback!
See you next time
The FlyNex Team