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Think Web Design, Not Cartography

Google Maps, Apple Navigation, GPS. These are the tools that people rely on now to navigate. While paper maps do exist, they’re relegated to being more of antique pieces than tools used daily. From hand drawn, to digital, to web, every form of the map has adapted to cater for the audience’s decreasing attention span.

On the web, a Cartography illustrator and their traditional map won’t work, as a site only has a few seconds to grab and capture visitors’ attentions. There’s a lot of other things that a map on the web has to fight to get someone’s attention, meaning that every map on the web has 10 seconds, at best, to convince people that they have something that’s worth seeing, otherwise, those visitors will be gone.

When it comes to web design, it’s important to remember that fact. Websites only have seconds to grab someone’s attention before they hit the back button or close the tab, which the industry calls as a ‘bounce’. Naturally, the industry is all about cutting down on bounce, and every site works hard to cut down its bounce rate before anything else.

So what about maps?

They’re no exception.

With all the work people put in reducing bounce rates, it’s no surprise that there are a lot of resource and information on the matter. The field is widely researched, and, if there were libraries on the subject, they’d be filled to the brim with books.

The condensed version goes:

  • Bigger fonts
  • Bigger buttons
  • Brighter colors
  • Fewer distractions

Basically, don’t think like Cartography illustrator, think like a web designer. Optimize that map to grab attention within the first few seconds of being spotted, so that you can convince them to do something else other than hitting that back button.

When you’re making a web map, remember that even the best data, the most useful tools won’t matter to a user that’s bounced, simply because they won’t be around long enough to actually find and use them.

To sum it up; ditch the subtle hues, the finesse, the subtlety of the old-fashioned maps while you’re making something for the web, because on the internet, everything is big, and designed to grab attention.

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