MAP COMPLEXITY

Most of us use dynamic web mapping services such as Google Maps or Open Street Maps every day. An important aspect of a web map is how the server decides which objects to display at each zoom level. For example, when zoomed out it's impossible to display every little side road without overwhelming the user.

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Screenshots of Google Maps, Bing Maps, and Open Street Maps at three different levels of detail.

In this project my group was interested in understanding how choices of symbolization at different levels of detail (LODs) affected the perceived complexity of different map services.

Ultimately we were interested in whether this affected people's ability to use the maps for their intended purpose. We used a simple survey to understand people's perceptions of complexity and compared this with counts of the number of different object types displayed on the screen at each zoom level.

The greatest difficulty with the project is defining 'ease of use', because more or less detail may be desirable depending on the task you are using the map for.