Think Like a Web Designer Not a Cartographer

"You’ve got 3-5 seconds to capture the attention of a viewer on your site"


(Image source: Redbubble)

If we look at the evolution of the map it went from hand drawn, to print, to digital and now to the web, with each iteration in this evolution the attention span of the audience has decreased. 

A web map is now vying for the attention of its users in a sea of content and online distractions. When a visitor sees our map for the first time we have a matter of seconds to convince their conscious and unconscious mind that there’s something here worth seeing, otherwise the user will be reaching for the back button.

In the world of web design a visitor to your page who views for only a matter of seconds before pressing the back button is referred to as a “bounce” and for every web page the reduction of its bounce rate comes before all else. Web maps are no exception. 

If the effort put into reducing web page bounce rates had been channeled into other fields over the last decade we would likely have a cure for cancer and colonies on Mars. It’s an extremely well researched field and you could fill entire libraries with materials covering the subject, but here’s the condensed version:

  • Bigger fonts
  • Bigger buttons
  • Brighter colors
  • Fewer distractions

Take a look at the map below, the map on the right is what I will call Web Mapping 1.0, it’s clearly taken it’s prompts from desktop GIS whilst the map of the left with it’s bright colors, thick lines, large text and brash markers has taken it’s prompts from Web 2.0, so let’s call it Web Mapping 2.0.

(Link to map)

Neither are going to win any cartographic awards but even though they are both displaying exactly the same data it’s clear to see which one is most likely engage a visitor in those crucial first few second and convince them to perform an action other than pressing the back button.

Next time you’re making a web map remember that the most impressive data and comprehensive tools are irrelevant to a user that has bounced as they didn’t stick around long enough to find them. So forget the subtle pastel hues and finesse of the cartographic world and take your prompts from the world of Web 2.0 where everything is big, brash, colourful and has a massive neon sign above it’s head saying “LOOK AT ME”.

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  1. apulverizer reblogged this from mangomap
  2. jonahadkins said: only works when on your page, not in the dashboard view - someone got an AGOL map to work in dash awhile back…
  3. mangomap posted this