Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Welcome to Web Map Design

Welcome to my new venture!

Why Switch?  My old blog (Google Earth Design) became a 'whatever is on my mind about web Geo this week', that was OK but important norms and practices are being defined at the moment and its all happening in maps, not Google Earth.  So I've decided to refocus on web maps rather than the broader virtual globes, education and maps I used to discuss on my old blog.

Evidence for the importance of maps compared with virtual globes can be seen in the Google Trends screenshot above: Google Maps has become consistently more searched for than Google Earth within the life span of my old blog*.

Developers making Decisions:  IMHO web maps today are pretty dire in terms of design.  By comparison, web design has moved through a period dominated by poor layouts into design patterns that are now pretty good.  I want to start or join in discussions of how maps are developing so we can ensure web maps follow a similar path.   It seems to me that the people making these decisions are mostly developers so I'd like them to be my core audience.  I worry that many of the innovations that are appearing today have poor usability and, if we don't nip the problem in the bud, we will be left with web map norms and practices that are impossible to change in the future.

How this blog compares to my older blog, Google Earth Design:
  • For Developers:  The primary audience of this blog is meant to be developers although it should interest HCI, cartographers and GIS people too.
  • Main Blog:  I mean this blog to be the main one so if a topic covers both virtual globes and maps I'll cover it here. 
  • Google Earth Design:  I'm carrying this on and I think it will mostly be about applications of 3D and educational stuff, I think Google Earth is still the main tool educators should be looking at.
* Muki  Haklay pointed this out to me.


  1. Rich,
    I'm a GIS guy who creates a lot of maps for a wide variety of users. I have tried to learn more about making better maps through your blogs. I want to take my skills outside of a virtual desktop and a GIS with paper/PDF maps and work more into getting data into the hands of everyone through any means possible.

    How can I help you? How can I help myself and get to a place where I can influence how maps are created and used and how they will evolve in step with everyday technology.

    I wish that Google, for example, would create and offer specific education for their API. I am a full-time parent and full-time employee and it's just hard to figure out where to start and more importantly, where I should end up.

  2. Hi Craig,

    What a lovely comment to get! Always nice to get such positive feedback.

    If you want to get involved two things spring to mind, if you think Google's API documentation isn't good enough (and I assume you've worked out how to use it?) you could write your own documentation and with it promote the idea of how to produce well designed maps.

    On the broader question of spreading the idea of well designed maps, I haven't got a clear suggestion. The first thing is to explore the topic for yourself, Edward Tufte's books and Muki Haklay's 'Geospatial technologies' are the best text book starters if you haven't found them already? Apart from this, doing some kind of user test as I promote on my blogs is an excellent way to learn what works and doesn't in your own work. Videoing user's doing user tests and showing colleagues/clients is a very persuasive technique to persuade others of the problems.

    Hope that helps, let me know how you get on.