The second in our new series of blogs from the teams behind our apps, maps and services, sharing their experiences in software engineering, cartographic design, user experience and more. Chris Hall, based at our London Geovation Hub, shares his experience on updating OS Maps’ route ratings.
Whilst I was using our OS Maps app to find a new route, I stumbled upon a frustrating experience with the route discovery process in OS Maps. Through some research and visual exploration, I was able to solve the problem.
OS Maps allows users to find and follow routes all over the country. Users can plot their own routes, and share them with the community publicly. To aid the discovery process we allow users to grade their route out of three options to reflect its difficulty. Routes are currently displayed as a pin on the map with a gradient indicator: Green for leisurely; orange for moderate; and red for challenging. This has created a great spread of the types of routes we get in the app, which for the most part works really well. However, one day I discovered this route:
We recently hosted a British Cartographic Society (BCS) event at our head office, ‘Better Mapping with QGIS’. It was a one day event that introduced the fundamentals of cartographic design and culminated in a hands-on QGIS workshop.
We were thrilled to have a packed lecture theatre and the day kicked off with Alex Kent, President of the BCS, welcoming everyone and introducing the agenda for the day. Brief presentations about open data and open source software followed before Mary Spence MBE, past president of the BCS, discussed the fundamentals of cartographic design. Mary took the audience on a tour through great maps and what makes them work, balanced against examples of poor maps and why they don’t before introducing the basic design principles that should be considered.
The first in a new series of blogs from the teams behind many of our apps, maps and services, sharing their experiences in software engineering, cartographic design, user experience and more. We start with a tale of collaboration, a rapid feedback process and pies!
It’s never good to be faced with a new problem deep into a project, but it is very satisfying when an effective solution is developed swiftly. During a recent app development sprint, one of our software engineers hit upon one such problem.
The app in question allows the user to select a group of properties which are rendered as point features on the map. Following standard web map convention, these points are aggregated, or clustered, as the user zooms out. This is to make the map more legible and to improve performance; it saves rendering potentially thousands of points in a single map view. Clustering is a fantastic and much-used technique in web mapping applications. Lots of effort has been put into developing slick clustering behaviour and designing effective markers. It works perfectly well if your points are all representing the same phenomena – and that’s where we ran into a problem.
The app we’re developing splits the point features into four discrete categories, therefore, if we apply standard clustering behaviour, we are effectively grouping these categories into one and hiding a level of information from the user. The user will still see a total value to show how many points are aggregated into each cluster – but in this instance they are also interested in how that total is split amongst the four categories.
Cue an informal meeting between software engineer, cartographic designer and UX designer; a mini brainstorm…
Former Southampton FC legend Francis Benali is now over half-way through his amazing challenge to visit all 44 Premier League and Championship grounds in 14 days. As you read this he will have visited 26 stadiums and covered 800 gruelling miles all in aid of raising £1 million for Cancer Research UK.
We recently collaborated with YHA to create a stunning new display for their Youth Hostel in Castleton. The display offers visitors a variety of routes to help them #GetOutside and explore the stunning countryside that surrounds the hostel.
At the centre of the display is a large 3D contour map of the area which contains some topographic detail and local points of interest. There are six routes shown on the map using coloured pins and string which makes for a really striking, tactile display.
After months of planning the British Cartographic Society (BCS) and the Society of Cartographers (SoC) joint conference finally took place this month. Through my new role as program chair to the BCS it’s my role to organise and deliver the conference. No pressure then. Paul Naylor, Carto Design team.
Called Mapping on the Edge, the event promised an inspirational collection of presentations and workshops, the annual BCS awards ceremony and a corporate members exhibition. As sponsors, we were bold in our presence at the exhibition, displaying OS Maps using our impressive collection of trig pillars.
Mapping the Edge 2016. Photo by Martin Lubikowski
Events got underway with a free full-day workshop hosted and sponsored by ESRI. The workshop, Better Mapping with ArcGIS was hosted by and Ken Field from ESRI with a focus on how to create high quality cartography within ArcGIS. Ken also looked at how to get the best out of ArcGIS Desktop and Online, as well as some of the new tool and technique offerings such as vector tiles and 3D.
We’ve had lots of interest from those of you wanting to enter The Times Mars map symbol competition to design a map symbol for our new Mars map. Chris Wesson, our cartographer who created the Mars map, advises on how to create the perfect map symbol.
As Steve Backshall said in a previous post, ‘If you’ve studied or used a paper map before, you’ll be aware of OS map symbols. The symbols help us to understand what appears on the map and gives us a useful guide to what we can expect to see when we’re out and about exploring Britain.’
But map symbols can also depict things you cannot see on the ground such as scientific data or historic sites without remains. Map symbols are commonly used as a method of showing location and in our latest symbol competition we are asking for your ideas to create a symbol to represent the location of landing sites on Mars.
Three of OS’ regular bloggers, Christopher Wesson, Jon Field and Luke Hampson spent the weekend at Open Data Camp (#ODCamp) held at Manchester Metropolitan University’s digital innovation space known as ‘The Shed’. Catch up on their views from the event.
Paul Maltby kicked off proceedings with a discussion presentation uncovering a project that he is leading that will look to capitalise on the great work that’s already been done by public sector through the release of data through data.gov.uk over the last five years. We should be as excited as he by the next five, as UK Government concentrates on making data more accessible, more interoperable (by defining data standards, structures etc.) and more useable; all of which should unlock more value.
This month saw the British Cartographic Society (BCS) and the Society of Cartographers (SoC) join forces in York to host Mapping Together, the first joint conference since 2003. This event contained an inspirational collection of presentations and workshops, the annual BCS awards ceremony and a corporate members exhibition. OS were Platinum sponsors once again – hosted workshops, presented and also sponsored an award. We were well represented at the event with six colleagues in attendance, including Cartographic Design Consultant Paul Naylor who is also a member of the BCS organising committee.
Guest post by summer intern, Jessica Fisher
Under the banner of OS OpenData are over a dozen products which vary in format, scale and design to offer the greatest flexibility and usability possible. These products are all freely downloadable from our OS website – and now there are new start-up guides to using a number of the products.