Contemporary Professional Practices in Interactive Web Map Design
Tolochko, Robin C
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It is time for cartographic research to catch up to the technology and practice of interactive web mapping. Here, I investigate the interactive web map creation process through the lens of those who spend their professional lives creating them. The areas of user-centered design and usability engineering have long influenced the design of digital interfaces and the accompanying creation of a successful user experience. User-centered design (UCD) is “a philosophy based on the needs and interests of the user, with an emphasis on making products usable and understandable” Usability engineering (UE) is the related set of methods to create interfaces that have high usability, i.e., are easy to use. Insights from UCD and UE recently have been leveraged for cartographic interface design, cartographic design, the web as an interactive medium, user-generated content, and an emphasis on user-centered design coalescing into the research thrust of web cartography. However, more research is needed to incorporate design insights from across these influences. Here, I respond to a call for further research to “integrate theoretical principles and practical guidelines from the field of UX design into the cartographic canon.” Specifically, I will address the following three research questions: 1. What are the workflows and processes that professional cartographers use when creating interactive maps? 2. Are there overarching design conventions that professional cartographers use for interactive maps? If so, what are they and in which contexts are different conventions used? 3. Do professional cartographers evaluate the success of their interactive map interface? If so, how? To answer these questions, I conducted interviews with expert cartographers who create interactive maps. To establish a baseline for current practices, I asked participants to discuss their workflows, the design conventions they follow, and their approach to evaluating the success of their maps. The results of this research include two knowledge products to support interactive map research and design. First, the interview study resulted in a benchmark of current design practices in interactive mapmaking, outlining contemporary design workflows and measures of interface success. Second, the interview study revealed a set of interactive map design conventions employed by professional cartographers. The purpose of this research is not to identify gaps in current literature, but rather to identify gaps between research and practice.
Interactive Web Map