Map Viewer Beta difficult to use on low resolution displays?

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12-10-2020 06:52 AM
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The new Map Viewer, or Map Viewer Beta, offers many new and exciting features, as well as performance improvements. Its user experience, however, adds significant challenges over the original Map Viewer when using it on a device with limited screen real estate. Is there a way for a user to adjust their new Map Viewer experience to get more of their map view back, when all they have is a low-resolution display?

In the Education world, where students' personal devices and institutional equipment is often far from state-of-the-art, this screen real-estate issue presents a significant hurdle. It is especially problematic for the many users taking their first steps in learning GIS. (And, during the pandemic, students are almost exclusively limited to working on personal devices, without physical access to large displays in on-premise computing labs.)

The look-and-feel of the Map Viewer Beta is great when you are looking at a map:

A very cool map!A very cool map!

 

But what if you want to interact with that map?  What if you are the person authoring the map?

If you are toggling layers, adjusting symbology, experimenting with clustering settings, filtering data, examining the attribute table, saving the map, sharing it, and so on… and, if you are on a 1024x768 display, then the user experience leaves a lot to be desired.

 

Where did the map go?Where did the map go?

 

The map is reduced to a small sliver -- only 12% of the display! -- making it hard to see the impact of any changes you are making.

Yes, you can expand and collapse some of the panes to see more of the map as you tweak things, however, that functionality is often hidden below the fold (see the left and right panes in the above image), and the user has to perform extra scrolling to access it. 

Also, remember that students' computers are often a couple years old on average, and were not that powerful in the first place. Hence, expanding and collapsing panes to expose enough of the map to check out changes, and then get back to the settings does not happen fast, and is frustrating to have to do repeatedly.

Even with the resolution increased to 1440x900, the map still only occupies 27% of the display. And, yes, you can zoom the map, however, you will lose detail you might need as you are updating the map's settings.  

An estimated three-quarters of the web traffic to campus from student desktop (not mobile) web browsers during our hybrid Fall 2020 semester has been at 1440x900 or less! Not to mention students don't always expand their browser to full-screen when they are working in multiple applications.

 

There is a bit more map here, but still less than one-third of the screen.There is a bit more map here, but still less than one-third of the screen.

 

The user experience in the old Map Viewer maintained the primacy of the map as you configured it. No, it wasn't my favourite user experience. The old Map Viewer has its own set of eccentricities. In many ways the Map Viewer Beta represents an important and helpful evolution, however, its multitude of separate panes seems like a step backwards in some ways, particularly for those with limited display resolution.

 

Which brings me back to the original question, is there a way for a user to adjust their Map Viewer Beta experience to get more of their map view back, when all they have is a low-resolution display?

 

The map in the Map Viewer Beta looks great and is easy to work with... when you have a 3200x1800 display on a nice big 5K monitor. The map occupies 80% of the screen with all the panes expanded and nothing is hidden below a fold.The map in the Map Viewer Beta looks great and is easy to work with... when you have a 3200x1800 display on a nice big 5K monitor. The map occupies 80% of the screen with all the panes expanded and nothing is hidden below a fold.

 

About the Author
University of Michigan IT Advocate, GIS Evangelist, Cloud-Computing Champion, AR/MR/VR/XR Visionary, Software Poet, and paleoceanographer/geologist.