[FoRK] map search

J. Andrew Rogers andrew at jarbox.org
Sun Mar 3 12:12:29 PST 2013

On Mar 3, 2013, at 4:43 AM, Kelley Howell <kcwalker at inkworkswell.com> wrote:
> I'm working on interface/interaction design. At this level, I'm talking about the best way to design a map pin. E.g.,using a pin that works with the human preference for the canonical view takes less cognitive work for the user, which would be a good thing if the user is working with a complex map. Or, research on whether a left, right, bottom pane for displaying text-based listing is best in terms of task completion rates - the same way we know the best way to position form labels to improve task completion rates.
> I was more interested in your own personal experience using maps and what you hate/like. If you happen to have stumbled over or know of interaction design patterns/UX design patterns for map-based search that would be awesome, but I was assuming from my search that isn't much out there.

There is not much out there.

Current UI/UX design patterns for map-based search assume sparse data. They break badly in the increasingly common case of having hundreds or thousands of contextually relevant values/layers for ever pixel on the presentation. This becomes problematic both from a presentation standpoint as well as for search refinement. Most map searches do not let the myriad layers interact in a meaningful way.

For a minimal bit of UI/UX functionality, most map search designs suck at spatial joins and filters. We spend a lot of effort on UI/UX R&D toward this aspect at work. A big part of managing the information density is making it easier for users to combine and cut away irrelevant parts of the search space. 

Queries like "show me all the vineyards in Oregon where it is not currently raining that are near a Starbucks where someone has tweeted about Justin Bieber in the last week" are dead simple to construct using SQL-like languages but are difficult-to-impossible to construct equivalently in map search interfaces. Breaking a query like that into useful chunks that can be easily independently managed and put into a nice map search interface is something that is currently done poorly even though it is a common sort of case and could be handled much better.  

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