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#1
Hans van der Maarel

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An interesting study by Thomas Porathe from Mälardalen University in Sweden on User-Centered Map Design was presented at the June 2007 Usability Professionals’ Conference held in Austin, Texas. Porathe’s study looked at how the human experience at interpreting maps is affected by a 2D versus 3D visualization. The study looked at four different display perspectives, the first three being digital representations of north-up, head-up, 3D, and the fourth being a printed 2D map.

Article (PDF)
Hans van der Maarel - Cartotalk Editor
Red Geographics
Email: hans@redgeographics.com / Twitter: @redgeographics

#2
DaveB

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Article (PDF)


Interesting article. Ties in with some of the stuff Derek and Jean-Louis have been saying, doesn't it?

I'm a little surprised the paper map was the slowest since you could turn it, but then the digital maps had moving indicators so you kept seeing "you are here" basically.

The 3D maps they showed might be better at showing you where you need to go, but not so great at giving an overall picture I think. On the other hand in the digital world you could start with the overall overhead plan view map to get the big picture then zoom in and down to get the wayfinding view.
Dave Barnes
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#3
Sky Schemer

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The 3D maps they showed might be better at showing you where you need to go, but not so great at giving an overall picture I think.


Better at navigation than, say, route planning. Or situational awareness.

Or providing the user with enough information to make a decision when they discover that reality doesn't match a given section of the map. If they were to rerun the experiments with insurmountable obstacles on the ground that aren't present in the 3-D or moving map, I bet you'd see people running to the paper map for help.

#4
Derek Tonn

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Interesting stuff, Dave! Thanks for the link. As for the comment:

Or providing the user with enough information to make a decision when they discover that reality doesn't match a given section of the map.


...when have paper maps EVER shown a user every feature or obstacle and perfectly mirrored reality either? As with any "Mac vs. PC" type of debate though, it's not a question of "OR" related to print versus electronic mapping applications. It is an issue of "AND"...and knowing when to apply the various resources for different applications.
Derek Tonn
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#5
Sky Schemer

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...when have paper maps EVER shown a user every feature or obstacle and perfectly mirrored reality either?


The point is not that paper maps are perfect. The point is that when your GPS tells you to turn down a street which has been closed off due to construction (or use a freeway such as, oh, say, I-5 which has been flooded with 10 feet of water in western Washington), it's a lot easier and faster to find alternate routes on a paper/overview/traditional map than a 6" screen with pan, zoom and a 3-D interface. As I said, it's about providing the user with enough information to make a decision, and a navigation device by its vary nature provides a narrower world-view. The wider the area that must be examined, the less useful they become.

Any conclusions drawn on usability like this article need to also account for exceptions. I am sure their numbers would literally invert in a situation such as the one I describe above. That doesn't make the 3-D interface bad, just of limited use.

#6
CHART

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from the 'article'

Forty-five subjects were volunteers from a population of available
students, teachers, and personnel at
Mälardalen University; 24 male and 21 female, ages 16 to 63.


wow.... I am baffled at these 'doctors' that come with conclusions based on such a narrow study group.

What is the average age? ... What are the age groups and numbers of 'volunteers' in each age group. etc... ect...

Maybe I mist it?

Anyway, in my books his finding mean nothing to me... but your comments on the subject are worth reading.

Cheers.
Chart

#7
Derek Tonn

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Jacques,

I think that an "n" (sample) size of more than 30 actually does make the results more than statistically relevant...though a smaller sample size will inevitably have a wider margin of error (though not nearly wide enough to dis-spell the assertions of the study). I think the point of the study though is not to say that everyone should run out and start mapping the world in 3D! Okay, I'd be perfectly fine with that, because our firm would subsequently make a LOT of money! :P Seriously though, I think the point is that not everyone navigates the way that "traditional cartography" likes to think that they navigate (or how they "should" navigate). Different strokes for different folks. For LOTS of people out there, North, scale, distance, lat/long, etc. means absolutely nothing. Those same people, however, can understand visual, three-dimensional landmarks...colors....shapes, etc. MUCH easier.

Is one "right" and another "wrong?" Certainly not. I just find it refreshing for there to be at least a bit of "quantitative" analysis to start reinforcing a lot of the "qualitative" experiences and informal analysis that I have observed over the years.
Derek Tonn
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mapformation, LLC

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#8
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Here is another study on 2d vs 3d. This one done this summer (Harpers Ferry Center).

... Now this study seems more valid IMO.


http://www.nps.gov/hfc/index.htm#

(the link is on the left)
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#9
P Riggs

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Here is another study on 2d vs 3d. This one done this summer (Harpers Ferry Center).

... Now this study seems more valid IMO.


The study tested a 2D map, a perspective drawing, i.e. background areas having diminished scale (see Robinson, 1969, p. 187), but did not test a perspective map, i.e. features on the landscape are drawn at an oblique angle, but features and background areas do not diminish with distance (Ibid). Why was the perspective map not tested? I would think it would be more comparable to a 2D map, and more useful for the purposes of hiking because the hiker is interested in distances with the addition of topography and environment. I find perspective drawings of surrounding ski resorts beautiful to look at, but would never use them for trying to find my way around a landscape. Conversely, 2D maps lack the feeling of surrounding environment. I think Raisz's method of perspective map does well to capture the positive benefits of both maps.
Philip Riggs
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