A Guide to Bing Maps July 2011 Map Style Update Bing Maps are rarely seen in isolation. In fact, roughly four out of five people who see a Bing Map on any given day will see it with data plotted on top of it (whether that data is a route, For millions of users, Bing Maps is the first choice for pushpins, traffic information, or online mapping services. Designed to be quick and something else). easy to use, Bing Maps helps people get the information they need to make decisions quickly – like finding the nearest ATM or exploring a destination before taking a trip. For businesses, Bing Maps is a powerful, flexible platform for connecting their A New and Improved Look For Bing Maps customers with their physical locations, visualizing business data, or tracking assets like trucks or cargo. With PCs on virtually every desk and GPS-powered This process has brought us to today, where we are smart phones in our pockets, maps have become an releasing the latest update to the Bing Maps base integral part of our lives. But as more and more data map style—what you will see when you go to Based on customer feedback, we continually hone and enhance our services to make it becomes available to enhance maps, things can get http://maps.bing.com or one of the thousands of web an easier and more intuitive tool for users and a great platform for developers and more complex, more cluttered. How do you add more sites that have chosen Bing Maps starting in early July businesses to build great mapping experiences. It all starts with our base road map style, useful information while making it easier for users to 2011. the foundation of what a user sees when using Bing Maps. This document highlights the find what they are looking for? changes we are making to our base map style as Bing Maps continues to evolve. So what did we change? Since its beginning Bing Maps has been following a Simply put, we made things easier to see. comprehensive process to improve and enhance the user experience by improving the visual interface– from the layout of the page, to the placement of the controls, to the base map style itself. This process always starts by listening to users—their wishes, their pain points, their ideas on how to make things better. We make changes based on their feedback, we run experiments, we try new things, and then we listen some more. 2 Before and After Based on many phases of usability testing we’ve made dozens of changes to improve our base road map style. The result is a new style designed to commu- nicate more important information at a glance. For instance, primary roadways are denoted in a more distinct color, one way streets are more clearly marked, and road shields are more visible. We’ve worked to optimize the map style to fit the way people most commonly look at maps online—with data layered on top of it. Moreover, we continue to break new ground with our venue maps of interior spaces like shopping malls and airports. Let’s look more closely at the changes. >> 3 Providing a Canvas With Bing Maps, we want to make it easier for people to complete tasks when working with our maps (e.g. finding a store near them, finding a hotel near a point of interest, getting and following directions to a destination). For our business customers, we want to make sure your data is the focus of attention, so we’ve intentionally chosen a cool color palette to give the audience the context they need, while still allowing your data layer on top to stand out. Let’s see how this works in practice. Warm versus cool Driving directions Red-yellow-green The old axiom that cool colors What is most important to A red-yellow-green scale is one recede and warm colors the viewer always pops out of the most popular choices for advance holds true. Notice how because of the contrast to the showing data on a map. You’ll your eye is drawn to the orange base map style. see it often when overlays are pushpins, showing how a used. For example, here’s a map business’s data would stand out with traffic speed data plotted on the maps. on it. Because of the predominance of these colors on overlays, we concluded our base map should not use primary, fully saturated colors to avoid the chance that the viewer could be confused. Other mapping providers use a base map with lots of saturated yellows and greens. It’s not hard to imagine the challenges with identifying yellow for slow traffic with a yellow road not showing traffic data. The bottom line: color should not cause confusion! >> 4 2 5 Greater Clarity One of the primary objectives of 1 Bing Maps is to make important things easy to find. To do that, we’ve made a number of key improvements. 4 3 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 Casing for all roads Road type differentiation New one-way arrows New color for water Distinction between building and Making type more legible road colors New casings on every road prevent Higher contrasts and more Larger arrows make it clearer when Water shows up as a deeper hue Enhanced glow on all type roadways from blending with back- saturated colors make it easier a street is one way. of blue. Not only is this easier to Previously roads and buildings improves legibility. ground colors. to distinguish road types and see for the general user, but helps were both grey. Now roads are instantly recognize main improve visual contrast for color- cased and building colors are a bit thoroughfares versus secondary blind users. cooler to provide more contrast. roads. Heavily trafficked streets show larger type. These improvements also apply to overlays—where map data is displayed over aerial photography—so the user experience is consistent (and consistently better). 5 Levels of Detail Bing Maps provides 18 or more levels of zoom. Remarkably, each level of zoom is its own unique map. Or think of it this way—we have one map of the entire world for each level of zoom. Because of this, the amount and type of detail shown at each level is an important consideration. Show too much detail and the map becomes cluttered and hard to interpret, show too little and the map does not fulfill its purpose. In addition, it is important to understand what people use different levels of detail for. If you are trying to determine the distance between London and Birmingham, the location of public transportation is probably irrelevant, but if you are trying to find the closest tube station to Buckingham Palace then it is critical. The goal is to find the right balance, and towards that goal we’ve made some improvements that help fit the right content onto each map: More scalable shields Moving data to different zoom levels Fitting long road names Roads, landmark names, transit icons and other im- We’ve improved the placement of map data based Labeling short streets with long names is always a portant symbols now scale easily at any magnification on zoom levels. For example, based on usability design challenge (this often happens in European level, creating a better user experience versus bit- studies, we discovered that showing building cities). New scalable type formats helps solve this mapped images. Transit and landmark icons become silhouettes at level 15 was overwhelming for problem by fitting more text in a smaller space. clearly visible as users reach greater levels of magnifi- users, so they now appear at level 17 where they cation on the map. are more helpful. 6 Density Determines Data Bing Maps now has a smarter way to show information based on population density data. For example, the American city of Burlington, Illinois (with a population of roughly 500) is prominently labeled because the surrounding area is sparsely populated. It’s fairly easy to display more information on a map without creating clutter. However, if you were to somehow pick up the entire town of Burlington and drop it into densely populated northern New Jersey, showing that same level of detail would quickly overwhelm the viewer, making it unusable. Bing Maps now provides detail based on population density, so informa- tion is shown at the appropriate level of zoom, and that information varies depending on location. This is another way Bing Maps is working to put the maximum amount of useful information on the map without causing clutter. 7 Country-Specific Shields Off the Beaten Path It’s What’s Inside That Counts Most countries use unique road shield Bing Maps provides more detail than Bing Maps is more than just roads and icons; all are instantly familiar to residents ever on hard to find roads. Now, parks and spectacular aerial shots. It’s about finding and certainly something they expect to forest roads along with unpaved roads what users need. For businesses this opens see when searching a map. have their own unique styles to make them a world of possibility. identifiable on the map. We’ve improved our country-specific road shields for the following • We’ve added maps for more than 300 of the largest shopping malls in countries and regions: the US for on-the-go users, and are adding airports worldwide for travelers making a connection or looking for a bite to eat on a layover. Australia Hong Kong Romania Austria India Sweden • Finding an attraction within a destination is one of the top things Brazil Israel Switzerland people look for when exploring travel options. This makes venue maps Canada Japan Taiwan more important than ever. China Malaysia Thailand European Union Mexico United Kingdom • Our research has shown that 30% of searchers have searched for a Germany New Zealand United States resort, large retailer, or shopping mall in the past year. Increasingly we can show maps of multi-floor buildings and building entrances, so you know where to park. 8 A Note of Thanks to Our User Community These enhancements to Bing Maps are truly customer-driven—due in large part to a devoted community of users who provide us with feedback and work with us to improve the interface and usability of the product. From Streetside to Photosynth® to Bird’s Eye views, some of Bing Maps most inventive improvements come directly from customer feedback. Today’s Bing Maps is no different, and we’re excited to bring these enhancements to users and businesses alike. For more information, visit http://www.microsoft.com/maps.
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