From Mapping to Spatial Interpretation

I recently read A conversation with Ken Jennings and Jesse James Garret.  @UXMagazine about Ken Jennings’ book Mapheads which was published in 2014. They discuss the relationship of maps and design. It reminded me of my early love for maps and the fascination I’ve had with them over time. As quoted from Ken Jennings “…elegance of the map as a solution to a visual problem ‘How do I convey information about the world?’ This is at the core of the UX designers goals.

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Every summer, my family would hit the open road for a vacation that normally included a lot of driving in our Ford Fairmont wagon, stops at seemingly random roadside historical markers and trips to baseball stadiums that were supposedly “on our way” to our final destination.

I lay in the “way back” section of the car, pouring over the intended route while imagining, alternate ways to get where we were going. Reviewing the various map symbols, topography and exchanges almost became another outlet for daydreaming and envision the possible excitement that lay ahead in the journey. It also caused me to think about how I would represent the 5420wisklandmarks as we passed them by and I saw exactly what they looked like. I recognized this desire to store and think about information in a spatial way. Ken Jennings shares his thoughts about it by saying. “That spatial way of storing information is apparently deeply hardwired into how our brain wants to learn things.”

This reminded me of the the quote from UX Researcher Ben Scheidermen  who states “The purpose of visualization is insight, not pictures

fitbitWe see this value being manifest in our products everywhere now. Real-time data in relation to geography and time exposing the state of the environment around us giving us the ability to maximize the experience we live in. Examples include a rise in Data Visualization products like Domo and systems that expose real time data like wearable devices, home automation and  electric connected cars.

Ironically it was all there before. We just didn’t have the ability to expose it in the moment. And now we can tap in to that “deeply hardwired” way of storing information.

just-ui-to-conversational-uiAs Conversational UI, AI and ML become more of a reality understanding how to design great experiences has become more and more about the choices made about what to include and what to strip away.

How does this change the work done as an Experience Designer? It doesn’t. It really just makes it all that  more important. There are now endless opportunities for feedback and interaction with people and our products. As I was once told by a former executive, “It looks like your job is going to get a little harder now.”

I would suggest however that now, more than ever a firm understanding of the core principles of usability are needed to combat the never ending battle against scope creep and adding features because you can, never stopping to wonder if you should.


Other great topics addressed in the A conversation with Ken Jennings and Jesse James Garret.  @UXMagazine 

  • Importance of how visualization of a map influences people’s perception about the concept of topic.
  • Cartographer’s building on top of each other’s work.
  • Marriage of Maps and Mobile devices
  • Importance of geotagging
  • Maps as a metaphor for conceptual journey’s

Looking for some design principles resources?

Try these sites (designprinciplesftw.com), (uxhow)

Words that make all the difference

Player Created Content: Resurrecting and old discussion. It’s been said that gamification is dead. Is it true? It’s pretty apparent that just making a leader board or giving nicely designed badges to your users is not going to engage them in meaningful ways. But I believe the principles of behavioral psychology behind this research is still very valid. The question is what is the carrot and what is the stick? Check out this blast from the past video from Amy Jo Kim.

Olympic UX Fail

Normally I don’t like to focus on the negative, but a UX Fail of this nature was surprising. For a site that so many people will be using.

I got this error when I was booking passage to the Vancouver Olympic Events at Whistler. Important to note was that unless you had proof of accommodations at Whistler you could not drive up on your own. They required that you take some sort of public transportation and strongly recommended using the Olympic Bus Network. So when I received this “Purchase Error” several times without instruction on how to fix it, I was very concerned. After calling the Olympic Bus Network several times only to get a recording, I resorted to email as the next quickest option. An email was returned to me stating that there was probably a mismatch on my CC number or Event Code. Now don’t you think that would have been very simple to code in there? As much as I loved my Vancouver Olympic Experience, I have to give this one a big fail.

11th Anniversary whoops…

So I’m a bit late on this but didn’t want this “UX FAIL” to go by without a mention.

The Google 11th year anniversary logo celebration was such a usability issue that I got several emails from friends telling me to look at the spelling error on Google. But I have to wonder if they let it roll just to get/keep people talking. Of course by the end of my rant I then discovered their genius. Be careful you don’t get too caught up in your own knowledge you just might miss something… ll-11..;)

11th Anniversay pic