Michael Gaigg: Über UI/UX Design


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