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Scale bars on online maps

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#1
Dale Sanderson

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I'll use Google Maps as an example: when I view the 48 states on-screen, the northern tier of states is shown at a much larger scale than the southern tier. Obviously this is because of the projection used for the data. My complaint, though: sitting there in the lower left corner of the screen is a simple scale bar showing "200 miles" and "200 km". Well, at which latitude is that line really equal to 200 miles?

Of course, as you zoom in closer to street-level detail, the scale bar becomes more accurate. However, when you first go to Google Maps, the "default" zoom level is way out at the continental level. So it seems to me a little more attention should be paid to the accuracy of the scale bar.

What would be a more accurate way for websites like these to indicate scale? Should they use a more complex graduated scale? Or would that be too much information? Should they continue using the simple scale bar, but maybe label it "scale at center of map"?
Dale Sanderson
professionally: cartographics manager for Dex One
personally: cartophile and road-geek (my website)

#2
Hans van der Maarel

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I'd say the second option. A graduated scale is very complex and would probabely just raise a lot of questions.
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#3
Eric Wolf

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I would argue that at resolutions where scale is significantly different at different parts of the display, there is no real reason to even present a scale. That presentation is meant more for navigating to areas of interest - which can also be done with a text search.

#4
ELeFevre

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I would argue that at resolutions where scale is significantly different at different parts of the display, there is no real reason to even present a scale. That presentation is meant more for navigating to areas of interest - which can also be done with a text search.


100% agree. I could see using a scale bar once you were at the county level, but beyond that it really doesnt mean much in this case. And if your'e concerned with distance, google provides that when you map a start and stop destination.






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