Michael Gaigg: Über UI/UX Design


Proposing: Spatial Dashboard

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Dashboards are everywhere, they can be found in business apps, management information systems, administration tools. They all have the following in common, they show summaries, key trends, comparisons, and exceptions. Usually all of above relate to key performance indicators or to derived (rolled up) data.

The "traditional" Dashboard

Traditional Dashboard (published by directionsmag)

Traditional Dashboard (published by directionsmag)

In the spatial space the data is rolled up to geographical (mostly political) units like continents, countries, or states and therefore provide a graphical presentation of the current status (temporal) in relation to its geographical location. This is typically displayed as a thematic map side by side with summaries, charts, gauges, graphics, or tables.

While this approach is completely valid its biggest weakness is the disconnect of visual perception to visual presentation of information, i.e. the intent of communicating geographical information isn't clear or at a minimum ambiguous. How do the data charts relate to the data shown on the map?

The proposed "new" Dashboard

that outlines considerations about your target audience, domain, data, and visuals to be used.

I hope this article inspired you so please let me know what you think and anything else that comes to mind after reading this article.


Innovative Interfaces: Future of Farming

Posted by Michael Gaigg

John Deere has done a very nice job with a video called "Farm Forward – Future of Farming". The subject is directly related to design work I'm doing right now and it's fascinating to see that - futuristic features aside - most of the capabilities like combining weather data with GIS and field scouting exist already. Love it!


The World as we know it

Posted by Michael Gaigg

I just love the stereotypes used to create the world as we know it map of the world by Osama Haj jaj). True or not, that's what we associate with these countries and you better have a sip of Tequila and a Taco when you travel to Mexico or watch a soccer game when in Brazil.

The world as we know it


Create your own Treasure Map

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Historical Style

Historical Style

Now this is cool (thx Nick for sharing)! An antique looking basemap (by MapBox), just missing pirates, treasures, hidden islands and tales about monsters of the sea...

Update (thx to Aileen Buckley): Esri has "a style you can use to do this -- it is the Historical style on Mapping Center -- it has ships, sea serpents, etc... (thanks to Jaynya!)".

Download: create historical looking maps (scroll down to 'historical' style)


Amazing: National Geographic World Map by Esri

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Yes, I'd rather be skiing in the Austrian Alps as well... 😉 Amazing map!!

View Larger Map

This map is designed to be used as a general reference map for informational and educational purposes as well as a basemap by GIS professionals and other users for creating web maps and web mapping applications.

The map was developed by National Geographic and Esri and reflects the distinctive National Geographic cartographic style in a multi-scale reference map of the world. The map was authored using data from a variety of leading data providers, including DeLorme, NAVTEQ, UNEP-WCMC, NASA, ESA, USGS, and others.

Link to map contents on ArcGIS online: National Geographic World Map


Free E-Book: GIS in the Cloud

Posted by Michael Gaigg

GIS in the Cloud

GIS in the Cloud

Matt Artz blogs about Esri's latest release by Victoria Kouyoumjian, Esri’s IT Strategies Architect: "GIS in the Cloud: The New Age of Cloud Computing and Geographic Information Systems".

Download: Download free e-book

Topics covered in the e-book include:

  • What Is Cloud Computing?
  • Cloud Service Models
  • Cloud Benefits
  • Public versus Private Cloud
  • Risks in the Cloud
  • ArcGIS and the Cloud

Start calling your Web Map “Map App”

Posted by Michael Gaigg

I design map applications for the web. I talk a lot about it but I just don't seem to find the right term for it. Should I call these applications "Web Map"? "Web Map Application"? "Mapping Application"? "Map Application"?

I decided to let my decision be driven by the people and what they are used to. Therefore I turned to Google Trends to match the terms against each other.

Mapping Application vs. Map Application

First I compared "Mapping Application vs. Map Application" (Figure 1). The shorter Map Application was the clear winner. The term mapping just doesn't seem to fly.

Mapping Application vs Map Application

Figure 1: Mapping Application vs Map Application

Map Application vs Web Map

So I decided to match the winner (Map Application) with the common term Web Map (Figure 2). While Web Map is clearly the favorite it's also evident that the term itself is on the decline which made me think whether another term is actually on the raise.

Map Application vs Web Map

Figure 2: Map Application vs Web Map

Map Application vs Map App

If Map Application cannot hold up, how about the short term "Map App"? As Figure 3 shows this expression has only been around since 2008 but it really seems to have taken off in Q2 of 2010 and has outranked the longer brother (Map Application) quite considerably ever since. I wonder how "Web App" would match against Web Map.

Map Application vs Map App

Figure 3: Map Application vs Map App

Map App vs Web Map

Now this comparison looks very similar to Figure 2 (Map Application vs Web Map) - just a little closer. We did expect that since Map App measured better than Map Application. The comparison (Figure 4) already hints us towards the term Map App, but let's zoom into the past 12 months to have a closer look.

Map App vs Web Map

Figure 4: Map App vs Web Map

Map App vs Web Map (past 12 months)

That's a really close call. It seems like the two lines in Figure 5 are converging. Is this good enough to call a winner?

Map App vs Web Map (past 12 months)

Figure 5: Map App vs Web Map (past 12 months)

Map App vs Web Map (past 12 months, USA only)

By looking at the individual regions though, I saw that the USA - which is our main market - looks slightly different. Figure 6 shows that the term Map App is actually already more popular in the USA than across all countries and languages.

Map App vs Web Map (past 12 months, USA only)

Figure 6: Map App vs Web Map (past 12 months, USA only)


At this point I think it's too close to call it a clear winner, but what we've learned is that

  • it's safe to remove the term "web" from map
  • the term "map" is better than "mapping"
  • the trend leans toward Map App, so let's start calling your Web Map "Map App".

What do you think? How do you call your map apps?


Successful Map App = Frame the Question

Posted by Michael Gaigg

What makes a Map App successful?

It sounds so easy and obvious. It's the basic, the 101 of analysis, Input-Analysis-Output. Usually I skip over introductions of books and that's especially true when I know the subject matter like GIS, but for some reason I started reading "The Esri Guide to GIS Analysis, Volume 1" (by Andy Mitchell, Esri Press) and it struck me like lightning, this is exactly what we should be doing:

You start an analysis by figuring out what information you need. This is often in the form of a question. Where were most of the burglaries last month? How much forest in each watershed? Which parcels are within 500 feet of this liquor store? Being as specific as possible about the question you're trying to answer will help you decide how to approach the analysis, which method to use, and how to present the results.

Other factors that influence the analysis are how it will be used and who will use it. You might simply be exploring the data on your own to get a better understanding of how a place developed or how things behave; or you may need to present results to policy makers or the public for discussion, for scientific review, or in a courtroom setting. In the latter cases, your methods need to be more rigorous, and the results more focused.

Frame the Question

Framing the question correctly will tell you:

  • The problem you are trying to solve
  • The approach of the analysis you want to use
  • Which methods to use
  • How to present the results

Who & How

Other factors that influence the analysis are:

  • Who will use it?
  • How will they use it?
  • How are the results being used?

Design Implications

All this will impact your design, on what you should focus and how to lay the elements out on the page. Consider:

  • Get the user to the location they are interested quickly
  • Create clear call to action that allows the user to get answers to his/her question
  • Simplify the methods on how to do analysis
  • Provide means to use or export the results

Web GIS: Principles and Applications [Paperback]

Posted by Michael Gaigg



I'm happy to introduce a new book which was co-authored by my colleague Pinde Fu: "Web GIS: Principles and Applications".

I'm really excited about this, not only because good GIS resources are scarce but also because he used screenshots of applications that I have designed over the past years, e.g. geodata.gov, GeoPortal Toolkit, Loma Linda Medical Center Response System, HydroViewer.

How much better can it get when your design ends up in a book?


While the content of the book is targeted at readers at all skill levels I can see it as a great teaching source as well as invaluable resource for managers and aspiring GIS developers to understand the principles of web applications.


The content of the book is focused on the conceptual level (you won't find code samples) by trying to be systematic and as comprehensive as possible which I believe was done superbly. Nevertheless the authors do cover important new developments like geospatial Web services (REST), geobrowsers, cloud computing, geoportals, mashups, mobile GIS, Gov 2.0, geotagging, ArcGIS APIs for JavaScript, Flex, and Silverlight.

Table of Contents

  1. GIS in the Web Era
  2. Technical Basics
  3. Geospatial Web Services
  4. Geospatial Mashups
  5. Mobile GIS
  6. Geoportals
  7. NSDI in the Web 2.0 Era
  8. Web GIS Applications in E-Business
  9. Web GIS Applications in E-Government
  10. Hot Topics and New Frontiers
Suggested reading:

Templates for Building Map Applications with ArcGIS API for JavaScript

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Templates for ArcGIS API for JavaScript

Templates for ArcGIS API for JavaScript

Creating web mapping applications has never been easier.

Esri offers a multitude of API's, from Silverlight to Flex and JavaScript.

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.