Maps API applications are accessed on desktop and mobile devices of many shapes and sizes with each application having unique goals for conveying information effectively and for facilitating user interactions.

In this session, we wanted to address some common usability problems that many maps developers run into and to suggest possible solutions that could correct the behaviour. We hoped developers would utilize and build upon these suggestions as they encounter problems in their own projects.

Here is an overview of what was discussed in the talk:

  • Why is usability important and why you should care.
  • What are the differences between mobile and desktop and how do they relate to map applications.
  • Techniques for changing the way data is represented on the map and how can change the experience.
  • Ideas for improving user interaction with the map.
  • Techniques for storing geospatial data.
  • Why incorporating sharing into your application improves usage and user happiness.
  • How changing the appearance of the map can dramatically change the user's understanding and interpretation of the data.

Justin O’Beirne joined us onstage to talk about map styling and how even the most subtle changes to the map can drastically change the user's experience. Below is an example of what can be achieved by using styled maps. The two maps are at the same location and have the same data points but the map on the left has had a custom style applied.

Drag the bar to show more or less of each map

By removing the map labels and decreasing the saturation and lightness we are able to emphasise the importance of the data, make it more visually appealing and build a application that is truly our own. If you would like to play more with map styling check out the styled map wizard.

So watch the video, check out the slides and make your map application user experience rock!