GUIDELINES TO OPTIMIZED GRAPHICAL USER INTERFACES OF INTERACTIVE ATLASES

J. Cron, R. Sieber, L. Hurni

ETH Zurich, Institute of Cartography, Zurich, Switzerland

sieber@karto.baug.ethz.ch

 

The wide dissemination of computers and their fast developing performance combined with increasing Internet speed are responsible for the growing usage of digital media in cartography. The classic printed atlas is more and more replaced or supplemented by electronic atlases on CD-ROM/DVD or on the Internet. Such interactive atlases are getting more powerful in functionality and interactivity.

 

The question of atlas and map usage thus becomes a rising challenge. The increasing number of atlas applications shows that nearly identical functions are designed and implemented in different ways, therefore their usage varies: simple and intuitive handling of atlas tools is often limited. This might lead to lack of interest, dissatisfaction or even confusion of the user. In order to avoid this, the graphical user interface (GUI) has to be structured in a plain and intuitive way. The essential functions need to be identifiable at a glance and easy to use. Additionally, certain basic functions should be standardized. Up to now, atlas authors are still looking for such guidelines to implement functionality accurately.

 

In this paper, an Atlas Cookbook for interactive maps and atlases is presented; it serves as universal adviser and decision support for beginners, advanced authors and professional developers.

In a first step to achieve this goal, various interactive CD-ROM or Web-based atlases have been reviewed, focusing on the implementation of their interface controls. In a second step a matrix was created, in which each atlas function was analyzed according to its functionality class and its interface controls. The results were evaluated and general specifications and implementation rules were deduced. Finally, these guidelines were compiled in an illustrated Atlas Cookbook and will thus serve for the practical implementation of an atlas GUI.

 

As proof of concept, a GUI prototype for the third version of the interactive Atlas of Switzerland was created based on the recommended criteria and specifications in the Atlas Cookbook. The functional behaviour and layout of some relevant map controls were prototyped according to the cookbook.

 

The Atlas Cookbook was designed as a compilation of GUI guidelines universally valid for every kind of interactive atlas and is easily expandable for future atlas functionality.