What is the right amount of detail?

In developing this map it is certainly tempting to try and communicate all of the information that was hard-won through multiple rides on minibuses and shared taxis. Some might be interested in this information (and the far more comfortable process of acquiring it), but adding this information makes the map more complicated and requires more effort to produce. Neither of these are tempting.

This issue first arose with the question of “What is a route?” To this I have proposed the system of base, secondary, and limited service routes identifiable by line width. The feedback regarding this strategy has been lukewarmly positive thus far, but could change as more secondary and limited service routes are added. More complicated than the route considerations is the outstanding question: “How much information is needed to describe a stop?”

During my first attempt at making a map, using the “Classic Google Maps,” I felt compelled to add more information with every stop that I plotted. The medium was not very conducive to this plan, however, as the left-side bar quickly became cluttered with stop names and descriptions. In some cases these descriptions became very unwieldy as I tried to reflect all the details that I though might be useful for a rider. See Zambezi Corner as an example of information overload in the old map.

Stop description for "Zambezi Corner" according in the preliminary map (using Classic GoogleMaps)

Stop description for “Zambezi Corner” according in the preliminary map (using Classic GoogleMaps); note the information overload in the left-side bar

The new Google Maps improves upon this situation somewhat by allowing “layers,” and only listing the stops on the left-side bar. The descriptions appear only when a viewer clicks on the stop name or the stop location. See the comparison of Zambezi corner on the new map for a comparison. Furthermore, there are more options for colours and shapes for the points that I am using for stops; this allows more information to be communicated on each point. To try and balance the communication of useful information with the desire to not overload, I have opted to map:

-The stops on core routes, with the points indicated according to the route’s colour on the map.

-The terminal points of secondary (square) and limited service (diamond) routes according to colour.

Stop description for "Zambezi Corner" in new map = much cleaner ;)

Stop description for “Zambezi Corner” in new map = much cleaner 🙂

Map of Ng'ombe market, showing the terminal point of base, secondary, and limited-service routes

Map of Ng’ombe market, showing the terminal point of base, secondary, and limited-service routes

When a viewer clicks on the detail at each stop there are occasionally “notes”. These notes communicate messages that are important for the stops. What constitutes an important message? Well, that’s a bit subjective. If we consider the stops that I know well as pilot projects, I felt that common route diversions and unusual stop locations were sufficiently relevant to merit mention.

Stop example: "Zesco" on Great East Road, which is served by multiple routes, but the outbound stop for one of them requires a note.

Stop example: “Zesco” on Great East Road, which is served by multiple routes, but the outbound stop for one of them requires a note.

Since only the mid-route stops on the base routes are listed, riders will have to deduce the potential stops on secondary and limited-service routes. For the routes that I know it is generally easy to get off the bus at any of the recognized stops along the route of travel, but riders should be aware of common route variations. Thinking of one secondary route I use often, “Arcades ->.Ng’ombe-Roma”, it will always service my normal stop of Roma Nursery, but since the least congested route for the buses is to use an alternate path to avoid Zambezi Corner I usually have to request the stop as the bus leaves Arcades. In the opposite direction, the “Ng’ombe -> Hospital” limited service route would take me directly to work, except that it loads to capacity 3 stops earlier in Ng’ombe Market and drives by me full (the first passengers disembark at Mass Media, at which point it overlaps with another route anyways).

According to the current design, stops that are serviced by multiple base routes are listed and presented as multiple stops. In a previous version of the map I listed each stop only once but mentioned each route that served it. The end result was a clean map that relied on an overloaded description; I hope that you find this update to be an improvement.

As always, the feedback of map users is always welcome. Throughout this process I maintain the goal of trying to present accurate and useful information while maintaining a user-friendly product; sometimes utility and user-friendliness are at odds. Your feedback in using this map will help me find the most appropriate balance for Lusaka’s realities.

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