How would you like your current position?

We’re currently discussing how to give a good visual indicator to users of Marble Touch where their current GPS position is (once it moves outside the visible region of the map). I created a video that shows two possible approaches: The first one (sticky indicator) shows the indicator on the bottom right of the screen and an arrow to point towards it. The second one (moving indicator) also moves the indicator to the nearest border of the screen. Please take a look at the video comparing both and add your comments.

Here are some things to consider:

The sticky indicator has the advantage of a predictable location. Look at the bottom right corner of the map to see the distance to the current position and in which direction it is. A disadvantage is that the distance is measured to the bottom right corner, which is not always intuitive (measuring to the center can be as confusing though). Likewise it’s confusing two see two position indicators when the current position is inside the view. This could be fixed however by hiding the position indicator when the position is visible.

The moving indicator feels a bit nicer as it is just one element and has a visually somewhat more exciting behavior. This could be annoying as well, however. Additionally I’m missing a good idea how to stick the distance label to it (therefore that one is missing in the second part of the video).

Which version to you like better? Which additional suggestions do you have? I’m interested in your opinion!


24 Replies to “How would you like your current position?”

  1. I think the moving indicator is more intuitive, but I would change it to a more obvious pointy shape, when the target is off screen. Maybe the colour could also change, to make the off screen state more obvious, possibly with a colour depending on the distance to the target. Also, having the distance to the target (from the indicator) shown beside the indicator, like in the sticky case would be a useful addition.

  2. I think that Pedro hit it on the nose. I also like the second better, but with the distance added. It DID take me a bit to get used to the way the pointer looked, so consider redesigning that as Pedro suggested too.

  3. The moving one is a great idea and definitely “cooler”. But I’m not sure if it’s better usability wise. As you said it doesn’t have a fixed position to look for. And clicking it is harder when it moves.

  4. I prefer the moving indicator as well. It feels less cluttered to always have only one indicator on the screen and it gives a nice “organic” feeling to see the indicator “detach” and “reattach” when the current position leaves and comes back to the view.

    Regarding the distance label, it could be stuck to the indicator, similar to those web tooltips. Something like this (ascii art):





  5. Damn, HTML killed my ASCII art :/. 2nd try, using ‘.’ to fill spaces:









  6. I like the fixed one better. In cases like this boring is better than exciting. Remember that a navigator is going to be used in cars potentially travelling 200 km/h if you are going on a German autobahn. Every 10th of a second that you have to use to locate the indicator on the screen makes the software riskier to use. Don’t cause any unnecessary accidents. There could also be actual laws about this thing but I don’t know about that.

    Regarding the distance indicator, I think that the best value to show is the distance to the border which means that the value should be the same if it is 1 km outside the left border as it would be if it was 1 km outside the right border. This also means that the distance is an indication on how much the viewport will have to be moved to get the actual position inside it again. I think that the distance could be removed when the actual indicator is inside the window.

  7. I had the same thoughts as Pedro with a changing colour, e.g. you could immediately switch to yellow when leaving the screen and then go via orange and red as the distance increased. Other tricks would be blinking or colour-cycling I suppose.

    Ingo should not mess about with his GPS navigator or the CD-player when going at 200 km/h unless he can do so without taking his eyes off the road. His use case should in my opinion, for the sake of road safety, not be encouraged by enhancing the application to handle such situations better 🙂
    There should be a “driving” mode of the application which always keeps the map centred (or roughly centred, e.g. by slow animated re-positining when the cursor has only 15% space left to the edge). Perhaps the driving mode should also have a larger indicator so you quickly see where you are. If you want to make it really fancy, the scale of the map increases automatically as the moving speed increases 😎

    Another idea where you have a nearly fixed position, would be to use the compass rose. Let a dot travel around the perimeter to indicate direction to your location from the centre of the map, or perhaps it is more intuitive if it indicates the direction to your location from the compass rose even if it is not centered. Enlarge that dot when you leave the visible area. The distance could then be at a fixed position in the middle of the compass rose. This would give a good visual indication of the direction like with the moving indicator I think, while avoiding your problem of attaching the distance text.

    Yet another solution is to simply overlay a large arrow (rotating to point to your location) and a distance (to the centre) at the centre of the screen whenever the position is not visible. It is simple, it works well, and it could possibly be made elegant as well.

    I agree with Ingo that safety should be taken into consideration by allowing you to see at a glance where you are. I think a large arrow at the centre is what facilitates this best when driving. It has a fixed position and is easily readable. For people without perfect eyesight the tiny arrow outside your fixed position circle is hard to see, so I think even at that position an arrow (without circle) should be chosen – but I don’t see any good reason for sticking it in the lower right corner unless you are in England where that would be the corner closest to the driver if the unit sat in a holder in or towards the centre of the car (windshield or instrument console). Ideally configurable for the user of course, but left corner is better than right corner – and centre of screen works for everyone.

  8. Opinions seem a bit to favour either way, so would it be an option to implement both approaches and let the user choose?
    Personally, I like the sticky indicator more. Especially if your in a car or on your bike where things are a bit shaky anyway, a fixed point to look at is much more user friendly.

  9. Ovi Maps has a fixed indicator and I find it really hard to figure out what direction it is pointing in.

    I would go with the moving pointer with distance as well. There are some games that use this (including distance) to indicate offscreen things like enemies and in my opinion it works really well. The in-car gps use case is also a good one, though ideally you’d always be centred on you current position in that case. But I suppose you could use it to point to your destination in a more dynamic way.

  10. I’d like to have both at once. The fixed indicator has the advantage of a familiar place; an additional moving indicator would give the more intuitive vector to the current location from the centre of the viewport. I would only show the distance by the fixed location, and I would make the moving indicator small, but visually distinctive so that it does not get lost against the map clutter.

    Clicking the fixed indicator should smoothly pan to the current location.

  11. Hi,
    I think both options have pros and cons and that is why i would like to see both. The fixed one would give you a quick idea where to look and the moving pointer would make it easy and intuitive to figure out where the position is exactly. I agree with Pedro that another color for the moving indicator should indicate the inside/outside status change. The fixed indicator should also have some indication about the inside/outside status. Maybe also the color or just showing/hiding the distance or remove the fixed indicator all together…

    But if i think about it, i would prefer if the fixed indicator is there all the time so you have ONE work flow of locating your position, which can be not that easy on a 10″ tabled…

    I also thing that the fixed pointer should point to the moving indicator, not to your position if that differs. I think it is more intuitive to use two points, if you already have them. And as Arjen sad it is not that easy to visualize the position in your head if you have to use trigonometric functions. The distance should be shown at the fixed indicator but the shown distance should be measured from the moving pointer or the border as Inge suggested.

    I hope i made my self clear…..

  12. Off topic:

    One issue I’m struggling with wrt marble are offline charts (e.g OpenStreetMaps) and the process to make them available for Marble. Packages are available for e.g Europe, but to make them available for Marble far from being user friendly.

    Hopefully someone will read this comment and get this streamlined. 🙂

  13. Moving indicator, but make the visual change when the location goes off-screen more apparent. For instance, make the off-screen version more arrow-like.

  14. Ah, t’is a hard one 🙂 Adding the distance to the moving version, and hiding the static version when actual location is visible seem like no-brainers to me.

    The moving version definitely looks cooler, but for a mobile device, which has poor “pointer” hardware, can be hard to read because of weather conditions, and can be used while driving, I think usability wins over coolness.

    On the other hand, in a more relaxed environement, the moving version is better. Appart from looking nice, it could also be used to show multiple POIs at the same time (say current_position and destination), which is a great feature to have.

    Gah ! Can’t decide. Can we iron out the no-brainers, and have an option for both versions ? I can really see two different use-cases here.

  15. Add one for the sticky – it seems to me much better not to have o point jumping around the screen all the time if you check out the surrounding map. Therefore the sticky looks much smoother.
    Also you can more much more intuitive measure distances with that – as it’s always in the same corner.
    Defintely sticky.

  16. I would take the moving one but with the distance.

    So add a distance text to inside side of the map. So when sign is on left edge, the text is right side of it. When sign is on right edge, the text is on left side of it. Same thing with top/bottom edges so text is under or over the sign.

    And now one small bonus thing. Think about having a multiple tracking points? Your friends etc, you could have multiple points going on edges without need to have multiple icons on one location.

  17. Moving, but with distance and a more arrow like shape. I also agree with having the colour change when it goes off screen. With either, I would suggest something that is high contrast (ie black, with a white outline) to make it quick to see. Currently, being mainly green, this would be largely hidden when it was in front of a green area like a forrest (with both moving and sticky pointers).

  18. I really like the moving indicator. In my opinion it would be even more nice if it changes from a dot to a triangle while the current position leaves the screen. Touching the triangle should automatically center the current position.

  19. To people preferring the sticky indicator because it is more suitable when used in cars or on bikes, note that the indicator points to your current position, not your destination. I assume by default Marble scrolls the view so that your current position is always visible. If this is true, the only way your position can go off the view is if you manually scroll it, an interaction you are not going to do while driving or riding.

  20. Since the common use case of this navigation function is most likely the operation on a small screen device (e.g. mobile phone), I think it will not be that hard to find the indicator. To make shure that it does not have the same color as the map in the background the indicator should have a border in a different color – a different solution would be a pulsing indicator.

  21. If indicator is to work as “Center view to my current location” -button, sticky is IMO must. Moving indicator can be more intuitive to view, provided one finds it first. So I see both to be useful (while viewing map/creating route and while driving). Distance from sticky indicator to location seems logical to me.

  22. If I hadn’t read the blog first, I would have never guessed what the sticky indicator was doing.

    I think the moving indicator works pretty well. If you have played any sports game, you have seen it before.

    I think both would benefit from being more arrow shaped. Looking at the screenshot posted of the video, it is hard to tell it is an arrow and not just a dot!

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