This is absolutely vital to the success of any map! An effectively designed map is one in which the intended message is clearly communicated to the map user. This is only possible by fully understanding what that message is and how the map is intended to be used.
The design process must start by identifying and fully understanding real user needs. What information does the map user require? How will they be using the map? It is important that all design decisions along the way consider the answers to these questions in order to create the map that the user really wants. A user will often evaluate a product or service by comparing their response to their expectation.
Focussing on needs allows the map design to concentrate on the elements that deliver the most value to the user, hence the greater chance of making the map a success; similarly it will lead to the avoidance of including unnecessary information that will only result in distraction or cause confusion.
Mapping for data.gov.uk – Ordnance Survey created the map-based search and evaluate functions on data.gov.uk, including a consistently-styled zoom stack:
The requirement was for a web map stack viewable from a scale of 1:15 million to 1:10,000 with predefined extents. The mapping is there to provide geographical context to other datasets that get overlaid by the user so the colour palette was chosen with this in mind. Desaturated colours have been used so that any overlying data will stand out well and instantly become the main focus. For this reason the map adds value without cluttering or confusing.
There was also a requirement for displaying the mapping in various projections as per the user’s choice. This led to the decision to use vector data instead of raster and as a consequence the cartographic styling is applied dynamically, on-the-fly.
Back to Cartographic design principles.