| 2 minute read |

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. The reality is you’ve got 3 to 5 seconds to capture the attention of a viewer on your site.

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 your page 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 channelled 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 with it’s bright colors, thick lines, large text and dark background has taken it’s prompts from Web 2.0, so let’s call it Web Mapping 2.0.

This map isn’t going to win any cartographic awards, but it’s also not going to send anyone to sleep. It is optimized to engage a visitor in those crucial first few seconds and convince them to perform an action other than pressing the back button.

It’s instantly clear what this map is about and that’s important because in the world of internet level attention spans the first requirement of any new user is “Don’t make me think!”.

You’ve got 3-5 seconds to capture the attention of a viewer on your site.— Web designers everywhere

Next time you’re making a web map, remember that the most impressive data and the comprehensive tools are irrelevant to a user that has bounced.

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”.

  • This was exactly what I needed to see.Good list, keep up the good work.

  • Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

    • You make an unconvincing argument by presenting two unattractive maps. The essence of cartography is a design that communicates well and is aesthetically pleasing, whether the medium is web or print. So, go back to school and learn to think like a cartographer, not a web designer.

      • Thanks for the comment Brian. The title was a little tongue in cheek, the main point I’m trying to make is not that cartography is no longer important, but more that in the world of the web everything comes second to engagement. If the user isn’t encouraged to engage with the application it doesn’t matter how good the cartography is because most users won’t get far enough to appreciate it, they’ll just bounce.

      • Jackson

        hehe what a comment …frag 0:1 mapper 😀

  • Suresh Kumar

    As cartography is not only a science, but also an art and a good map, which is aesthetically pleasing and scientifically correct, automatically attracts the attention of the viewer. The medium (paper, digital or web) does not matter much and I think, a web designer without cartographic knowledge can’t create an good map.

  • Anthony

    I dont even know what cartographer means 😀 Dont tell to anyone at Chillatnove Malta, otherwise i dont have a job 🙂

  • Benjamin

    These customized maps look pretty sick, they can be embeded easily right? or is there a wordpress plugin for that? We want to integrate it with http://www.seo-takeover.com.

  • Karyn

    While I agree with the previous posts, I enjoyed the article. You make good points that both web and graphic designers understand. Thank you!

  • I agree that you should think like a designer not as a cartographer to make your work more user friendly and it will be easy to understand and to follow.Every web visitor will see that your work is an eye catcher one not some boring drawing which was difficult to understand.