Dec 21, 2010

You are here. Now what?

It has been said that if you want it to be soft everywhere you walk, then you can either cover the whole world in leather or you can buy some shoes. Unfortunately, if you want it to be user-friendly everywhere you walk, there is only one option: You have to cover the whole world in user-friendliness. That’s where I come in. I put on my user-friendly shoes and go outside. But when I stub my toe, I don’t recoil or go around the obstacle like a normal person. I kick. Like an obstinate person. But I kick because I care. Today, the idea that I’m going to kick around is the public map, the kind you see at a bus stop or in a plaza.

These map things in general are great because I can’t see around corners without a periscope and it’s nice to know what’s around me. I’m happy there are maps. The “You are here” dot is a nice addition to a public map because it saves me and everyone else looking at the map the time it would take to figure out where we are on the map as we are viewing it. Thank you, Inventor of the “You are here” Dot. We appreciate you. So far, so good. But this next part gets me. I don’t want to just stand here and look at the map all day—I’ve got places to go and people to see. So now I’m looking at this map trying to figure out how to get where I want to go. If the map were friendly, it would tell me which way I was facing as I viewed the map. But it doesn’t tell me which way I’m facing, so I have to figure that out by myself. Me no like having to figure out stuff myself if me no have to.

When I’m in a car using a map, I can turn the map so that north is no longer at the top of the map and the map is in line with the territory that I’m driving through. Many GPSs do this automatically and this is how these public maps should be positioned. It’s all about me.

Suppose this is me:

I’m at the corner of North St and West St, facing west as I look at a public map. If I were on this corner facing north while I was facing the public map, then I would have no objections to north being at the top of the map—I would like it. But I’m facing west. If I’m facing west while I’m facing the map, then west should be at the top of the map. You can still show me which way north is, but it shouldn’t always be at the top of the map just because it’s north. That’s northist. If the direction that I’m facing were always at the top of the map, then it would save me the time and trouble of having to rotate this map around in my head to figure out which way I need to go to get to my destination. Map big, brain small. Please change. Thank you.

To show the user that the map is oriented the same way that they are, you could show a person and the map on the map.

Suppose this is you, facing west while viewing the map:

Do you want to see this map?


Or this map?


North ain’t so special, right?
So let’s stop being northist!


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