The Map Bar Has to Go

Why oh why are we seeing this Map/Menu bar on all these new Web 2.0” mapping applications? Take this beta example from the USGS National Map Viewer:

So you’ve been sitting back, watching all this great new Web 2.0 stuff and this is what you bring to the table? I know, lets see how much junk we can throw into a JavaScript API. The whiteboard on this one must have been intense… Just take every idea that someone comes up with and toss it into a ribbon interface. Sweet! But this isn’t a complex, specialized, niche application we are talking about. This is our (well if you like me are a tax paying citizen) national map. Yes the American Map! It should be something we are proud of, something we would run of a flag pole and salute!

They do expose some other ways to access the data, but don’t be fooled by the names. The Google Maps, Bing Maps and the rest are all just links to the ArcGIS REST API. That is how The National Map should be exposed. Here are the services, use them and create your own maps”. Might be a better way to handle it because the future looks bloated.

Of course we can’t completely blame the USGS for this, ESRIs JavaScript and Flex API sample viewers have a similar abomination. Clearly GIS Analysts shouldn’t be designing user interfaces. Are we really going to use this thing for every web map API?

I mean we all love to throw complex concepts under a widget icon of a box with gears on it. Me? I can never remember if I’m supposed to use the compass or the globe to zoom in or out.

The one saving grace is that one day Google will just enable all this in their web map viewer making everything else irrelevant.


November 13, 2009