We’re now living in a world where just about any location can be pinpointed with a click of the mouse. With the advent of GPS technology in 2009, the web has exploded with bold and beautiful map design online. Now is definitely the time to take a closer look at this awesome venue as one more way to express your expertise and versatility as a designer.
Maps require a bit more know-how than most jobs, but they are very rewarding in the end, and they’re in high demand as more and more users go on the hunt for good graphic locators. In this post, we’ll discuss the basic fundamentals of designing online maps as well as a few interactive navigation features. Then, we’ll inspire you with a showcase of several excellent map designs.
Interactive Map Uses
Online maps are the great tool for presenting interactive data online. Recent technological advances have initiated significant improvements in this design area, and there are a number of ways that designers can take advantage of this.
A map should be designed so users can easily relate to its contents. In fact, the best maps cause the user to act on the data presented. This means engaging the audience with smart design choices for navigating maps, including sliders and direction arrows so that views can make the relationship between the map and the content of the page.
Basic map-making design includes a few tried and true principles. Here are four that should principally guide your design:
1. Include directions using details such as names of streets and highways, distance and time.
2. Keep navigation simple and visual.
3. Show relationships and population trends geographically.
4. Include locations of interest such as museums, hospitals, colleges and universities.
Though we won’t cover every aspect of map design here, it’s worth it to mention a few details on map navigation. It’s a crucial feature of every map and a variety of ways to design for it exist.
Zoom is an essential feature of most online maps. It allows users to see details with increasing clarity. This is a fully functional characteristic since most details, on the street level, for instance, cannot be seen without magnification. It also aids the overall design by keeping the largest sized maps uncluttered with the details of clarified views.
Point of Interest
This type of navigation is perhaps the most common on the web. Here, designers use attention-getting markers to highlight places of interest based on site content. Usually, all other aspects of the map fade to the background. Sometimes, a hover effect is used to present images or descriptions or both.
When the goal is to show progress over time on a web map, during elections, for example, slider navigation is your best bet. This doesn’t have to be a complicated replication of minutes and seconds. Simply ensure that the time scale on the slider is clearly relevant to pinpointed aspects on the map.
Before and After
Clients may specifically be in need of the before and after map for special projects or situations such as news and weather. It’s particularly associated with satellite imagery.