This week we have made it to the final post of our Embracing the Online Platform series. If you have not paid attention to anything that came before this post - and hopefully you have - pay careful attention to this...
Keep the illusion of control when accessing data.
Remember that "Give an inch, take an [insert feature here]" comment from last week? Well, that still rings true. The underlying thought behind that is not necessarily greed, however. It is control. Users want to be able to control what they see as evidenced by previous points. On the other hand, developers want to control what users do. This could easily be a lose-lose situation where no one ends up with a product they enjoy using. Our goal is to not allow that to happen, instead turning this into a win-win.
With all of the incredible features that can potentially come with taking the web approach, there isn't much value to them unless you can control access to their content in some way. If you were paying attention earlier, you know that the ability to save settings is a plus. Outside of this, what are other ways in which we can both regulate our data and provide the end-user with a bit of power? Let's explore.
1. Group Development
One application of the all powerful is to allow clients to create groups that can then be accessed within the interface. Users can create groups for sharing personalized content. The individual who establishes the group, in turn, can add or remove maps or users...hopefully without damaging the feelings of coworkers in the process. They can also delete the group altogether if the content or circumstance no longer proves relevant.
2. Individualized Map Creation
Although there will come a time when a user will wish to edit an existing map, more often than not they would rather choose creation over alteration. Rather than simply altering an existing map, new maps can be created from services published and publicly exposed by the site administrator. These admins have access to control the written and graphic content and can define and deploy as many Map Servers as they wish. Admins help the data world go-round.
3. Same Map Service, Different Behavior
To make the creation process easier on the end-user, it can often be beneficial to offer them variety from the get-go. For instance, the management system within the NL Nature Atlas allows admins to publish different map behaviors based on the same Map Service - in addition to the functionality mentioned in the previous points. Offering variations of a single Map Service is up to the discretion of the team, the project, and the content it represents.
However, this approach is ideal for situations where a portion of end-users will need a map styled a specific way - like symbol coloring for color-blind users or labels altered for language preference.
Regardless of the behavior, the underlying service remains the same.
With all of that being said (here and in previous posts), it is best to think about your end-user and what he or she wants from this experience. An application that is easy to navigate, intuitively understood, and offers sound data is a wonderful start. An application that offers customization and analytical superpowers is just icing on the cake.
About the Applications
NCC's Newfoundland and Labrador Nature Atlas | Developed for the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), the NL Nature Atlas is an online resource for 30+ maps on a variety of topics (e.g., Protected Areas, Rare and Special Plants, Human Footprint, etc.). Each map is embedded on the project's website here and does not require additional plug-ins for use.
Explore the Series
When building Web Applications and Web maps, there are key features and elements to take into consideration during the development and integration phases. Let us explore these features with examples of applications to illustrate their importance, such as...