Katelyn M. Thompson's Blog

Analyzing the Digital Maps

Posted in Information Visualization, Usability by kmtom on February 16, 2011

Came across this great article on 41Latitude which compares Google Maps’ labels (left) with Bing (right) and MapQuest. It’s interesting to compare the maps side to side. I strictly use Google Maps, for not only a better mapping service, but also because it’s just easier!

The author’s first hypothesis is that Google Maps has a lesser density of labels when compared to the other maps. However, when looking at the area shown above, Google had 86 city labels, Bing had 91, and MapQuest had 83. So that is not the reason for GMap’s superiority.

One of the 3 reasons Justin O’Beirne gives for the Google Maps’ legibility is the fact that they have non-opaque white outlines around the labels. The images below show Google Maps (left) and MapQuest.

As you can see, Yahoo!’s decision to allow background map information to remain visible underneath its city labels harms their overall legibility. Individual letters are broken up by other dark lines, forcing users to give a second look to many labels.

The second reason he gives is the greater number of “classes” of labels for cities. (Think CSS headings). Google maps has 4 different sizes of labels while Bing and MapQuest only have 3. The third reason he gives is the fact that the smaller labels are shown in a lighter color, which makes them fade slightly into the background.

Additionally, a few “tricks” are pointed out – not necessarily related to the labels – that help with Google Maps’ readability. The first is label decluttering around major metropolitan areas, basically smaller suburbs aren’t shown. Also, Google displays city markers further apart than Bing (not that it is moving cities, just that it is showing cities that are father apart from each other). 

In conclusion, Google Maps is better. Although I guess I should Bing has addressed some of the issues pointed out in the critique.

via ChartPorn

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by meipi, Katelyn T. Katelyn T said: New Blog Post: Analyzing the Digital Maps http://wp.me/pxMBs-cM #readability #usability #cartography http://wp.me/pxMBs-cM […]


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