Introducing Our New Mapping Tool

A guest post by Peter HedlundEncyclopedia Virginia Programmer
One of the goals at Encyclopedia Virginia is to create intuitive and interesting ways for users to find content on our site. With this end in mind, we redesigned our site last summer. But one aspect of the original site persisted: the Explore Virginia map. Still, we found this tool to be outdated and unnecessarily complicated, concerns that we confirmed through usability testing. So we’ve been working to fix it, and today we’re happy to announce that we have created a new map tool. To find it, go to EV’s front page and click on “Browse the Map.”
Our mapping function has been completely redesigned. It will allow users to explore and discover our content more easily and quickly and—we hope—to make interesting geographic discoveries about Virginia’s history and culture. As ever, its goal is to provide pins on the map pointing to the locations of historical events; click on a pin and you’ll find a link to a related EV entry. But the new map can now filter geographic points of interest by a combination of date range, category, and/or search term. In the meantime, users can still zoom in and, by dragging, reposition themselves in order to see more geographic details or to differentiate among a tight cluster of event markers. Additionally, a scrollable text window to the left allows users to explore on the map events revealed by the combination of filters and map boundaries.
One of the benefits of being a digital publication is that we will be able to analyze the effectiveness of this new map by looking at our website’s statistics. For example, if our stated goal is to provide effective tools for users to discover our content, the statistics should show that more people are clicking from points on the map through to the entries to which those points correspond than they did with the previous map.
We have great ideas for improving this map in the future. We’d like to include historic boundaries of both Virginia and its counties as well as provide the ability to overlay historic maps. As always, we are receptive to suggestions from our users. What kind of features would you like to see us add to our map?
After the jump, a reminder of what our old map looked like.
IMAGE: A screen shot of Encyclopedia Virginia‘s new mapping tool

Old mapping tool at Encyclopedia Virginia


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