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Design & UX Tips for Maps

Patrick Arlt

Experience Developer - Esri Portland R&D Center

@patrickarlt -

Why Make Maps?

  • To help people find things
  • To help people make decisons
  • To visualize information

Lets find the… Nevermind…

Map Portal

Map Portals… Not even once

No Map Portals

Not Just Map Portals

Portland Park Finder

Lets go to the park… Not…

Portland Park Finder

Some Real-World Metrics

Single-Topic maps get 3 times the traffic of the traditional Map Portal

Lession: Be consice your map should do one thing well.

People Actually Interact with Balloon Content

Lession: Don't neglect your popups.

People Rarely Change Default Map Settings

2% of visitors changed basemaps, 0.5% used fullscreen.

Lession: Less is more. Reduce your tools and layers.

People Look Up Info on Maps, and Leave

Auto completing search is key. Average visit was 1:43.

Lession: Get users in an out as fast as possible.

Only 12% of users browse information for more than three geographic features during a single visit.

Lession: Users care about a single feature.

  • Reduce noise
  • Let there be search
  • Pages for individual features
  • In and out at NASCAR speed
  • Focus on a single topic

Treat Everyone Like An Idiot

  • You
  • Your Users
  • Your Coworkers
  • Your Boss

Learn How Much

User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) Summit

1pm-6pm Wednesday

Santa Rosa/San Jacinto

Your design is C.R.A.P!

C is for Contrast

R is for Repetition

If its good enough to put on the page once its good enough to put on there again.

  • Show popups on hover AND click?
  • Filter a map AND and a list?
  • Introduce shortcuts and keyboard commands?

A is for Area

Are the biggest things the most important?

P is for Proximity

How far apart are important elements? How long will it take a user to find them?

Design Is All About Balance

Ugly is Good

Remember Me?

Portland Park Finder

Good and Bad


  • Single focused mission
  • Individual pages for features
  • Search first design


  • Search is really hard
  • Maps are klugdy
But my boss wont give me time to design something!

- You - Right Now

UX Fund

In 2006 TeeHan+Lax invested $50,000 dollars in 10 companies they thought enbodied good design and UX.

One year later their investment matured 39.3%. Better then NASDAQ, The S&P 500, and the NYSE.


Twitter : @patrickarlt

Slides :