This week we released GeoCommons 2.0! We’ve gotten some really positive feedback from users on the new UI and the features we’ve added. I thought I’d write a series of short blog posts over the next few days that help introduce some features of the new GeoCommons and discuss a bit of the technical apsects behind them.
Today I’ll be talking about something we refer to as the “Welcome Dialog”. This is the screen, or dialog, that users see first when creating a new map, and it provides the central place for most map creation and editing activities in the GeoCommons 2.0 map interface.
The Welcome Dialog is meant to be an easy to use introduction to new maps. Also it serves as a centerpiece for adding and editing the content of old maps. A lot of time and effort was put towards usability of the dialog due its “front and center” nature. Plain and simple we want users to make maps, and we want it to be extremely easy for any user to make a map quickly and easily. Of course we want GeoCommons maps to also be visually appealing and sexy so we needed to make the Welcome Dialog conducive to all of this. The primary concept of the dialog is to guide users through creating interesting and visually compelling maps in an easy and efficient way. Here are its main features:
The foundation of most web-based maps is the basemap. Changing a map’s basemap in previous versions of GeoCommons were somewhat hidden and wasn’t very intuitive at all. In the 2.0 release we wanted to make it much more a part of the map making experience. We provide a list of all the available basemaps right away. We also default to <a href=”http://developer.geoiq.com/tools/acetate/”>Acetate</a> our own set of lovely basemaps that we feel make maps look great. The selection of a basemap is meant to be fast and simple, users should be able to quickly choose one then move on to building their map. We want to guide the process as much as we can without interfering so once a user chooses a map we automatically switch the context to selecting data. Of course its really easy to go back and change the basemap by selecting the basemap tab on the left.
Adding and Finding Data
The most important part of GeoCommons maps are the data added to them. This is obvious, but its important that this process be very easy and fluid for everyone. Users can search the entire depth of the GeoCommons data warehouse and quickly see several key aspects of any dataset including the type of data, the number of features, the contributor and other general metadata that help describe the dataset. Also we’re now pre-generating preview images of our data. This is a really handy feature for quick glances at datasets that might be interesting components to a map.
The last ingredient we added to the Welcome Dialog was the ability to upload data directly from the Welcome Dialog, add the data to GeoCommons, and instantly map the newly uploaded data. This is really powerful. It allows users to create maps from newly contributed data and lessens the effort in adding data to the overall platform.
One the best aspects of this new release is that it opens the door to a number of really exciting possibilities. We’ve got several new features that we’ll be rolling out in the coming months that are being made possible through the changes we’ve just released. Some of these capabilities will include new data analysis tools in the UI and data connectivity tools. Within the new framework that we’ve built the sky is the limit, and we’re full of ideas. Stayed tuned for more on those soon….
I’m going to dig into the new data styles palette, and provide some tips and tricks for making great maps.
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