The app is built using Esri's ArcGIS API for Microsoft Silverlight and the recently published (free) web API of the World Bank that provides access to up to 50 years of economic, financial and health data.
Besides mastering some technical challenges (missing cross-domain access file, amount of web requests) the map viewer looks sharp and straight forward without the usual template-related overkill of functionality - great job visualizing all this economic data. Let's see which other - maybe analytical? - mapping tools will follow...
Creating web mapping applications has never been easier.
Without discussing the design approach for your particular user-specific needs, I want to point to some great template resources that can serve as a starting point for customizing your app. The templates are based on ArcGIS Explorer Online viewer.
Follow this really nice tutorial on how to access the template gallery to get started.
- 20 HTML Best Practices You Should Follow (by Saqib Sarwar) - yes, we all know, but it's so easy to forget 😉
- 10 Essential Free E-Books for Web Designers (by Grace Smith) - free? freeeeeee!
- Self-Motivating Through Creative Blocks (by Cameron Chapman) - always love the sheer simplicity in which Cameron summarizes complex subjects, must-look.
- The power of brief speeches: World War I and the Four Minute Men (by Richard I. Garber) - Five minutes means a guess; four minutes makes a promise - that's why 😉
- A Complete Guide to Progressive Enhancement (by Cameron Chapman) - expaining why your website does NOT need to look the same in every browser, try to explain that to your client 😉
- Getting to Grips with Content (by Kristina Halvorson) - Prune it, Put it in front of users, Give it purpose - sounds easy? Look around...
- 8 Must-see UX Diagrams (by Andrew Maier) - yes, must-see...
- The GeoServices REST Specification: An open standard for GIS Web services (by Sterling Quinn) - now this is sweet, the full GIS capabilities of ArcGIS Server via REST 🙂
- Finding the Balance: Users’ Needs Vs. Clients’ Wants (by Oliver Gitsham) - have a rationale ready behind every decision and design choice that you’ve made!
This is big!
And here is why: ESRI, a privately held company with more than 2700 employees, was founded in 1969, over 40 years ago. The company name is an abbreviation for Environmental Systems Research Institute and therefore
not pronounced as a word but as distinct letters similar to IBM, SAP and other software companies with an acronym based name. It is thought within the GIS (Geographical Information Systems) circles, and even joked that 'old' users prefer E-S-R-I, while novice users use the 'ez-ree' pronunciation.
(from wikipedia, March 2010, which has its own section called "Pronunciation of company name").
Insides and Myths
Over time a divide elapsed, employees were proud to pronounce their company name E-S-R-I and by doing so showing they are insiders and distinguishing themselves from the 'newbies'. It became part of company culture and identity.
Rumor has it that the first week of orientation for new employees is to train them to say "E - S - R - I" spelled out instead of trying to pronounce it as a word (ez-ree), though I cannot personally confirm this. There's also been a rumor of Jack Dangermond [the presiding of ESRI] having a version of the "swear jar" on his desk, and anytime someone says "ez-ree" they have to put a dollar in.
Around the world users were confused. While it seemed to be natural to pronounce the company name ez-ree, users found themselves being corrected and lectured: "It's not ez-ree, it's E-S-R-I". Hearing "It hurts me to say "ezree". =)" from employees were not uncommon.
Forum threads tried to shed light on the ongoing discussion and various sides were quick to elaborate about the correct pronunciation in (mostly humorous) detail, e.g.
- Here in San Antonio, my new home, it is pronounced "ess-ray y'all".
- In austria we say: äsri
- When I'm in a hurry- I say 'eS-ree', and when I'm trying to sound sophisticated and smart I say 'E-S-R-I'. Isn't that the way it always works?
- As for ESRI or esree I have always called it EE ESS ARE EYE.
- Lately I've noticed that people, who aren't sure of what they are talking about, pronouce it 'Uhh, [pause] Ezree' or '[PAUSE] Eszree'. The pause before gives it away...
- Canadian pronunciation: ez-ree-eh?, or ee-ess-arr-eye-eh?
- One thing I've noticed, though, is that the tendency to elide sounds has some people pronouncing E-S-R-I rather like yes-are-eye (without the y). Will the next step in this evolution be yes-rye? (Then the only question will be Do you want that with mustard?)
- Down Under we say 'Bloody ezree' when things go ferral.
Change and Resistance
To the surprise of many employees an internal notice from 3/19/2010 read:
[...] we will be transitioning the pronunciation of ESRI to “ezree.” This effort will ensure a consistent name recognition around the world.
What followed was a big uproar from the employees side. Many of us felt robbed of our identity and culture. What seemed to work well for over 40 years should not be changed and trashed that easily!
As it turned out, after merrily 4 months and a hugely successful User Conference with almost 14.000 people (the biggest gathering of GIS professionals ever) the name change was perceived as a relief by the user community. A sense of unity was felt, finally we speak the same language, the confusion was lifted, no more lecturing, no more division between insiders and outsiders, everybody became part of the family.
Esri stepped into icy waters and in risk of p***ing some of its own employees off it opened a new world of opportunities by Speaking the Language of Its Users - I'm loving it!!
What do you think?
Have you ever heard of a comparable change / step taken? Could you imaging IBM spelled Ei-bm?
If you feel qualified and are interested please send me your resume to mgaigg at esri dot com. I'm also happy to answer any kind of question (except payment) you might have.
My job here
Use your technical background and innovative visual design skills to simplify complex business processes through the creation of intuitive and visually engaging user interfaces.
- Create sophisticated, imaginative, efficient, and visually striking interfaces for front-end solutions
- Design reusable UI components by utilizing or building UI framework components
- Develop storyboards, mock-ups, and prototypes to communicate ideas for navigation and interaction models
- Evaluate requirements and initial mock-ups; make technology recommendations that support optimal construction, maintenance, and performance
- Translate complex functional and technical requirements into detailed architecture and design prototypes
- Ensure cross-browser/platform integrity of Web designs
- Work closely with software developers and software testers to create a working end-to-end solution
- Define, maintain, implement, and enforce style guides, standards, reusable templates, and best practices for client-side software development
- Leverage the latest developments in Internet technologies
- Serve as a technical resource and mentor
- Bachelor’s or master’s in computer science, graphic design, visual design, human factors engineering, interaction design, information architecture, or other relevant field
- A minimum of five years of experience in user interface design, information architecture, user-centered design methodology, and implementation in complex enterprise environments
- Significant and proven experience demonstrating innovative UI visual design skills
- Ability to balance designs with the understanding of technical constraints within a software development environment
- Good understanding of user experience (UX) and user-centered design (UCD)
- Ability to take a concept from sketch to final implementation
- Ability and willingness to take ownership of projects and help drive them to effective implementation
- Exceptional attention to detail, organizational, communication, and presentation skills
- Passionate about novel user interface design and software development
- Experience with GIS/ESRI products and solutions
- Experience with .NET, C#, Silverlight, and Expression Blend
- Experience with JSP, Java Web frameworks, Flash, and ActionScript
- Experience with Linux, PHP, and MySQL
- Proficiency with Adobe Creative Suite including InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator
- Ability to interface with customers, gather requirements, and implement new solutions
ESRI Headquarters, Redlands, CA
Maestros, at this point a quick note that I will be back writing my own content shortly (have quiet some stuff in my queue). So long, the highlights of week 6/2010:
- Paper iPad - you don't have the money for a real iPad? Make one out of paper 😉
- Using a Pre-Launch Checklist for your Website (by Ben Gremillion) - building a website is fun and believe me, it's funnier to follow a protocol. This one is a great start.
- Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy (by Derek Sivers) - Value your first follower, embrace him/her as equal, the rest will follow...
- If 1 of 5 users has a problem in a usability test will it impact 1% or 20% of all users? (by Jeff Sauro) - take observed usability issues serious, there are more than likely critical issues.
- Google Maps Get Labs With 9 Cool New Features (by Stan Schroeder) - nothing fancy when you work in a mapping company like ESRI, but probably a heck-full of work for google.
Following I will identify areas that make web-based maps inaccessible as per WCAG 1.0 (please see section: 'Questions and Possible Research Areas').
Shout for Help
Question: How can Internet Mapping Applications be made accessible for users with disabilities?
If you are currently working on resolving any (or all) of these issues, know of somebody that is working on them or even know existing solutions, I would greatly appreciate if you pointed them out to me.
It is absolutely impossible to continue with our current approach to seek exceptions as a 'work-around'!
It is important to note that I'm not talking about simple Google maps like driving directions or locate services that could be described through alternative, textual output.
Many times a map is the means to select, query, mix and eventually analyze data across multiple layers from multiple services. The input requires good vision and motor skills (mouse) and same applies to the output that is highly visual as well.
A simple example that illustrates this fact pretty well is shown in Figure 1, Drive Times from a specific location based on traffic grid.
Section 508 as explained by Authority 29 U.S.C. 794d: “Section 508 requires that when Federal agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology, Federal employees with disabilities have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access and use by Federal employees who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency. Section 508 also requires that individuals with disabilities, who are members of the public seeking information or services from a Federal agency, have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to that provided to the public who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency.”
This law is extended and applicable to companies that develop applications for the agency, i.e. ESRI has to adhere to the Section 508 Standards.
The Section 508 Checkpoints were translated into Web Content Accessibility Guidelines which cover most of Section 508 and describe its implementation in terms of HTML & CSS.
So far, exceptions to this law have been granted for the specific case of online maps. It is believed to impose an ‘undue burden’ to the agency/contractor to make maps accessible. In many cases a 1-800 number was provided that would help the user to get the same information.
Questions and Possible Research Areas
Currently the following WCAG checkpoints are Level 1 (A) show-stoppers and need to be solved/researched/implemented:
Checkpoint 1: Provide equivalent alternatives to auditory and visual content
How to read a map when blind? E.g. redundant text for active regions/content.
Checkpoint 2: Don’t rely on color alone
Map application could provide different color schemes/black&white/shades of gray?!
Checkpoint 6: Ensure that pages featuring new technologies transform gracefully
How to provide a map (or alternative) that can be used when scripts are turned off?
Checkpoint 8: Ensure direct accessibility of embedded user interfaces
Do not write event-handlers that rely on mouse-coordinates (device-independence; see also Checkpoint 9)
Checkpoint 9: Design for device-independence
How to navigate a map without a mouse?
Checkpoint 12: Provide context and orientation information
How to describe the content of a map (especially after a change, e.g. query)?
You know of a solution?
Please get in touch with me if you know of solutions to these problems!
I hope that solutions for these problems can be found and maps become available to everyone. As always, not only users with disabilities will benefit from these efforts but also the applications themselves, e.g. better SEO (search engine optimization), alternative support for mobile user agents, assistance for elderly people, etc.