A usability comparison of canvas, topographic and street base maps.
Thesis DisciplineGeographic Information Science
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Geographic Information Science
Basemaps are a fundamental component of most maps, and may affect the usability of the map. Cartographic guidelines recommend that map authors select a basemap appropriate for the map’s intended topic, scale, purpose, context of use and audience. Guidelines for selecting the basemap, however, are not well covered by the usability literature.
Basemap usability research may determine how different basemaps affect the map’s usability. In turn, recommendations may be offered to map authors for selecting an optimal basemap type for the map, and the map user(s). In turn, the usability of the map may improve, as well as the users’ experience.
This study presents a usability comparison of canvas, topographic and street basemaps. An online survey was designed to evaluate basemap usability. Survey respondents’ map reading abilities, and subjective preferences, were compared between each of the three basemap types. Comparisons were made across effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction usability metrics. In addition to basemap type, the survey examined how map scale, map complexity, map use tasks, and respondents’ mapping expertise affected map reading abilities.
Survey results found that basemap type did not significantly affect map usability for search and search-along-route map use tasks. Larger map scales improved respondents’ map reading effectiveness, and map reading efficiency was significantly faster for respondents with greater mapping expertise. Map complexity and map use tasks had no significant effect on map reading performance. Basemap preference results show that respondents liked street basemaps the most, and canvas basemaps the least. The relationship between respondents’ map reading performance and basemap preferences was also contemplated, with avenues provided for future research.