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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Google Wave, demystified

Posted in Design, Information Visualization by kmtom on November 17, 2009

What’s all the fuss about Google Wave? This video explains it. It seems like it is smashing GMail with Google Docs and MS Word’s “track changes”.

UPDATE: 11/22/2009

I have received my Google Wave invite (thanks to Kyle Bedell). But I’m not really sure what to do with it. I don’t really send e-mails to groups at this point in my life. I basically use gmail for personal communication and to get updates on geocaching and other listservs. It is blocked at work, so I couldn’t use it for that purpose even if I wanted to. I’ll have to recruit a friend to try it out with me.

via SwissMiss

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Remote Simplification

Posted in Design, Information Visualization by kmtom on August 29, 2009

A year ago I wrote a paper about “Pre-Attentive Processing and Organization of the TiVo DVR Remote Control”, basically how the placement and coloring of buttons on the remote help you to organize them into groups.


When I saw this technique I thought about what it’s like having to use someone else’s remote that you might not be familiar with, especially one that is not designed as well as the TiVo remote. Consider using this for when you have someone over to house sit.

via SwissMiss

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Excel 2010 Features

Posted in Information Visualization by kmtom on July 15, 2009

Unlike many other people, I love the new Office 2007. I think a big part of that is I actually took the time to figure it all out – the Reference tracker in Word and easy integration between Excel and PowerPoint.

Information is beginning to be released about the new Office 2010, including the fact it will have a free online aspect as well (move aside Google Docs?).

One cool aspect of the new Excel is sparklines “which are essentially tiny charts that appear within a single spreadsheet cell, giving you at-a-glance access to trends”. Seems pretty cool. One bad thing about the charts in Excel have been how they can take over a sheet, so it will be nice to have some graphical information that can be contained to a cell.


via @trokair

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A New Wall Outlet

Posted in Design by kmtom on June 20, 2009

I thought that this was really cool. Obviously power strips are a problem. The cords and such, they just get all tangled. While although The Node doesn’t solve all the problems, it seems like a fun alternative.

via core77

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