Poll: What Makes a Good Map?

Nov 1st, 2007, 05:49 AM
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Poll: What Makes a Good Map?

First, some background: For various occupations, one is taught to use 'top-down' design for a thing - which could be a book, a house, a computer program, a brochure, a painting, a piece of clothing or other manufactured good. The 'top' draft of such thing indicates only general outlines; the second draft adds more detail; the third yet more detail, and so on until the 'bottom' which is the most detailed level, and also the final product. The idea is to catch errors before one has invested too much time processing a lot of detail that might turn out to be irrelevant - sort of like finalizing the house plans (including the size and number of rooms) before specifying the furniture. It also is intended to help break down a complex project into more manageable, bite-sized pieces. Those designing, and those using a series of plans, as opposed to a single 'one-size-fits-all' plan are supposed in this way to not become overwhelmed.

Yet many people here have expressed frustration, and worse, when a guidebook includes what are termed 'useless' maps. (Example: the maps that typified the earlier editions of the Rick Steves series.) Is this frustration because:

a) you feel ripped off; you feel you get more value with a guide that includes the most detailed map that will fit on the guidebook page (or double page);

b) you aren't interested in the kinds of navigational/orientation problems for which simpler maps might be better suited to solving ;

c) The style of the map looked not simple and unintimidating but coarse, amateurish; it just didn't fit your conception of what a map should be (which is....)

In short, how do you feel guidebook writers like Fodor's could build, if not a better mousetrap, the best system of maps for their guides? (it would also be interesting to hear about how people balance benefits against costs, such as the price and/or size and weight of the guidebook.)
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Nov 1st, 2007, 06:12 AM
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I never use guide book maps. I either get a map from a local tourist office or buy something like a popout map for the city in question.
For road maps in general I choose according to what I am going to use it for - navigating to an area, or navigating around an area, by car, bike or foot. Now we use Satnav to get to our destination and a good map of the area for exploring it. I love map reading and finding small byways to follow.
hetismij is offline  
Nov 1st, 2007, 06:20 AM
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I think you're working for the wrong company.
Dukey is offline  
Nov 1st, 2007, 06:22 AM
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And my above remark was meant as a compliment, too.

What makes a "good" map...

1. CONVENIENT to use...thumbing through a guidebook to get to a map isn't the most ideal situation IMO

2. It has things on it I am interested in (in other words, detail)

3. It doesn't fall apart (which is one reason I like the "Streetwise" series of plastic-coated maps

Dukey is offline  
Nov 1st, 2007, 06:27 AM
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I like a map that has the street I am looking for on it! Make it plastic, folding, indexed, gives a macro and micro look, has public facilities and transportation and fits in my carryall. I also like it flashy so everyone will know I am lost when they see it and offer help!!
Felschurch is offline  
Nov 1st, 2007, 07:47 AM
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I thought that this was supposed to be a poll with holes to click or something to cross. What happened?

It's a lot of reading if I cannot decide. Poll, hmmmmmmm. It cannot be a poll for just one poster.

blackduff is offline  
Nov 1st, 2007, 07:52 AM
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I don't know if it would work so much but I'd like to see a metro map printed on some sort of transparency that could then be held over a more detailed city map; just for a sense of things. Does that make sense?
Katie_H is offline  
Nov 1st, 2007, 08:46 AM
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Hi, Sue -

Assuming that you mean maps designed to help people explore cities or towns (not maps for driving):

First and foremost, I want accuracy. I would have thought that an obvious goal, but have encountered so many maps with major errors that it seems worth mentioning.

Second, I want a map that I can use to find my way around on foot. If minor streets are to be left out (and I'd generally rather that they be marked), then I would prefer some clear indication that they've been omitted. I don't know how many times I've taken the 2nd left (or whatever), only to discover that I was supposed to have turned at the 2nd MAJOR intersection, and that nothing on the map clued me into the omissions.

Third, I prefer that key buildings and other sites of interest be labeled on the map by name, not number.

And finally, I find it very helpful when subway stops are clearly marked.

Hope that helps!
kja is offline  
Nov 1st, 2007, 08:54 AM
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Robespierre is offline  
Nov 1st, 2007, 08:57 AM
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I'm often mystified by the free fold out maps that come with guidebooks.
They are large and yet very often don't label most of the streets or public transport stops.
I too am a loyal fan of Streetwise.
I've supplemented that one for London, where I sometimes also need the small A to Z for off-the-beaten track locations. I also like the London MapGuide by Middleditch, which breaks up the city into sections, and also has some tourism info. For Rome, where
there just wasn't enough detail for me in Streetwise to label all the alleys and byways, I added
a Michelin Roma Tascibile small map book, with a small area on each page.

As to what I need, or at least wish for:
all streets labeled
Easy folding, small size, and laminated (like Streetwise)
public transport stops labeled, at least for the metro
And, increasingly important as I age, type that's not too small.
I may turn into one of those old fogeys who carries a small magnifying glass.
elaine is offline  
Nov 1st, 2007, 09:01 AM
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No Robes, we are not "Luddites" because we know how to use a paper map. Nobody here is doing any "protests" against modernization.

I have to congratulate you, however, for finally refraining from calling everyone "stupid" who doesn't see it your way. That is a major improvement and I'll bet you didn;t even need your laptop to accomplish it.

Dukey is offline  
Nov 1st, 2007, 09:20 AM
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I like Katie's idea for a transparency for metro maps, and why not add bus routes and taxi stands? And she works for just the right place to submit such a suggestion.

I like the level of detail in the maps in the Time Out city guides and in the Eyewitness Guides, although the books are too heavy to carry around when touring.

I like the removable folding maps that I have gotten from some editions of Frommers guides. Much easier than carrying around the whole book. But I agree that they should have enough detail to locate specific streets.
Nikki is online now  
Nov 1st, 2007, 09:46 AM
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I like the Middleditch MapGuide to London (mentioned earlier by elaine) and wish I could find ones set up the same way for other cities. They have other cities but none are displayed like London regarding the tube stops.

On the London mapguide, the stations are shown at their street locations. The name of the station is printed in a box that is color coded to what line (or lines) pass through that station. That means if I am looking at Station A and it is on the Circle line but I need the District line then I know I need to use a different station or I can easily find a station that connects. Most other street maps (including the Paris MapGuide from the same company) show the metro/tube stop but with no indication of what line it is on. You have to look at a separate metro map to determine that.

The idea of an overlay might be very useful for this sort of thing.

I liked the London Mapguide so much that I bought a 2nd one when a new edition came out.

I do have quite a few Streetwise maps as they are compact and durable.

LeeParis is offline  
Nov 1st, 2007, 09:50 AM
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I like a map that's small enough to fit in my pocket.
One of my favorite maps is made by a company called Pocket Pilot
They're laminated and fold into 3x3 squares. I want to be able to pull it out and look at it and then quickly put it away.
I also like the Pop-up maps for this reason.
Kristina is offline  
Nov 1st, 2007, 10:21 AM
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Hi Katie,

The Streetwise Map of Paris has the metro stops marked on the street maps, and a map of the metro system.

It also shows cab stands.

ira is offline  
Nov 1st, 2007, 10:50 AM
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Main Entry:
Ludd·ite Listen to the pronunciation of Luddite
perhaps from Ned Ludd, 18th century Leicestershire workman who destroyed a knitting frame

: one of a group of early 19th century English workmen destroying laborsaving machinery as a protest; broadly : one who is opposed to especially technological change

Incidentally, Dukey-poo - do you think chiding me about laptops makes you look smart? Especially since I have explained for three or four years that when on foot, I use a Pocket PC to store my maps and guides? The maps are zoomable, pinpoint addresses (and Métro stops) by merely typing them in, and the guides are machine-searchable.

Paper map users aren't stupid - but soooo 2nd-century. But if using paper maps makes you feel stupid, that's not my fault.
Robespierre is offline  
Nov 1st, 2007, 11:18 AM
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I've always been impressed with your posts regarding technological things and I certainly love the little gadgets myself.

However, I really do wonder why you bother to post on these threads at all. Your contribution to this one certainly isn't helpful.
Do you do it because you feel superior to everyone else and you constantly need to prove it to yourself and others?
Do you do it just to get a rise out of others so you can sit back and chuckle?
Really, what's the point?

The OP was not asking for advice about using a PDA for maps. She was asking about how to have a better guidebook map.
In fact, I know my own post might not have been helpful in that regard. I should have added, because I like a small pocket map, one that could be pulled out of a guidebook, with good street detail, and would fit in my pocket would be useful. I know you disagree, but personally I find that sometimes paper can be faster than the PDA.
Kristina is offline  
Nov 1st, 2007, 11:32 AM
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Actually, Sue's exact words included "(it would also be interesting to hear about how people balance benefits against costs, such as the price and/or size and weight of the guidebook.)"

I think that discussing which paper map is superior - in this, the eighth year of the third millennium CE - is ironic, given the amount of space in this forum that is devoted to GPS and iPOD and cell phone and laptop and WiFi and who knows what other electronic gizmoflotchy.

Do you do it because you feel superior to everyone else and you constantly need to prove it to yourself and others? No - I think your life would be improved if I could only drag you kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

Do you do it just to get a rise out of others so you can sit back and chuckle? No - I get so much value from pathfinding the modern way that I want to spread the joy far and wide.

So you see, my motives are entirely altruistic. The jibes about Luddites are my version of Tough Love.

And anyone who thinks paper is faster than electronics can race me to find the most convenient RATP route to get from any arbitrary point in Paris to any other. Loser buys dinner.
Robespierre is offline  
Nov 1st, 2007, 11:58 AM
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What Robespierre can't grasp is that maps ARE technological tools. It takes a narrow mind to define "technology" as only "small devices that require batteries". Call it gizmoitis. A frequent accompaniment of gizmoitis is the need to berate others for wanting something else.

Several things annoy me about guidebook maps:

* they reinvent the wheel -- much effort is expended in design, but very little of that design conveys information. Real map companies -- A-Z, Michelin, Rand McNally -- have put countless hours of work into their map designs, and it shows. Guidebook maps usually look like they were designed by graphic artists or other amateurs.

* the scale is frequently off -- either too big or too small.

* most annoying: missing detail, Especially in older, pre-automobile cities with lots of tiny streets. Guidebook maps tend to leave a lot of these tiny streets out. When you're using a guidebook, you're by definition unfamiliar with an area, unsure about which way to go, unsure about what's coming up next, possibly confused about which way is north. If you come to a street that's not on your map, panic ensues. This is a problem with many guidebook maps that would otherwise be excellent -- like the Rough Guide maps.

* size and portability. Lately my preferred technique if I need broad coverage is to print out Google Maps -- not their useless built-in print feature, but laboriously sized full-screen snapshots pasted into Word and printed. These are then large enough to see where I'm going, but small enough to stuff in a pocket. The advantage of doing this extra work is that I don't waste any of the paper's real estate with idiotic ads, banners, or other worthless non-information. The drawback is Google's low resolution, which means you have to make things too big to get them all in.

* in addition, I like a credit-card sized map that covers a very small area around my hotel, or some other feature that I'm spending a lot of time in.

Overall, I think most of the important challenges were met decades ago. For London, A-Z in Super Scale has everything you need. A guidebook could perhaps get away with just a few pages of that -- but few guidebooks seem interested in giving up even that much space. For Paris, the little Paris par Arrondissement hasn't need improvement for fifty years.

fnarf999 is offline  
Nov 1st, 2007, 12:09 PM
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I haven't bought one yet, but I love the look of those newer laminated maps. Won't tear and are easy to fold.

One of my guide books has a very detailed map...but it's bound into the book so the middle of the map isn't readable because of the binding. Oops.

I like walking tours but sometimes they think describing the tour is enough so they don't include a simple map showing the route. That's annoying because you will remember the details of the places better than the directions. It's nice to be able to glance and see where you are headed.

sundown is offline  

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