Modern Trends in Cartography

Part of the series Lecture Notes in Geoinformation and Cartography pp 23-36


The Next Generation of Atlas User Interfaces: A User Study with “Digital Natives”

  • Raimund SchnürerAffiliated withInstitute of Cartography and Geoinformation, ETH Zurich
  • , René SieberAffiliated withInstitute of Cartography and Geoinformation, ETH Zurich Email author 
  • , Arzu ÇöltekinAffiliated withDepartment of Geography, University of Zurich

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Atlases are one of the most complex geovisualization environments as they are very information-rich. Within these environments, a well-designed user interface is essential to explore the variety of atlas maps and media. Involving technology-affine digital natives in the interface design process seems self-evident to provide appealing and intuitively usable atlases in the future. In our study, we presented secondary school students (n = 110, age 14–15 years) with five graphical user interface (GUI) mock-ups varying in layout density and tool arrangement. Each alternative design embodies a GUI concept inspired by an existing Web atlas or a popular website. The students have completed five tasks in these atlas interfaces that represent typical use cases for thematic navigation, spatial orientation and information queries. We collected performance and preference metrics for each layout, i.e., the time to solve a task (efficiency), whether students found the correct answers (effectiveness), and their ratings of each layout for “attractiveness”. To complete the analysis, we also conducted a mouse click analysis. Results indicate that atlas interfaces with a medium layout density are strongly preferred by the tested participants, and through inferential statistics, by digital natives in general. These medium density layouts also perform significantly better; i.e., they have lower average times, lower number of clicks and a higher percentage of successfully completed tasks. Based on the interpretation of the results of this study, general and practical guidelines for future atlas user interfaces are derived.