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Is it a good idea to use map for selecting travel destination?

At the moment we are using dropdown menu to select the country the user would like to visit. We are also using dropdown for duration and price. Some one decided that it would be a good idea to include a map to select destinations. I remember they were popular 10-5 years ago, but these days its only possible to find on a few websites.

Is there UX reason for or against use of maps?

Map example

enter image description here

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I wouldn't be able to find Singapore unless the map had a good zoom feature and labels. –  obelia Nov 14 '12 at 18:53
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6 Answers 6

up vote 24 down vote accepted

Some arguments against maps would be:

  • Many countries are too small to be selectable on a world map. It would require zooming and panning or some form of drill-down selection.
  • Selection would require a mouse. While it's possible to allow keyboard navigation, it would be a tremendous ordeal.
  • It assumes users will be geographically-aware. Many will not be.
  • Users may instinctively associate a map selection with their current locale rather than where they want to travel, as it is more common as a use-case.
  • Geographical location, on its own, is a poor filter for guiding travelers towards destinations they would enjoy. It should not be the main navigational element.

A compromise could allow users to choose the continent on a map and then list a smaller set of matching countries in the drop-down. Wherever a map is used, a textual equivalent or common form input should be available too.

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+1 "It assumes users will be geographically-aware. Many will not be" –  Zenon Nov 15 '12 at 0:20
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You could have a two-way synch between the map and a selection. Selecting something highlights the map, and clicking something on the map selects something in the dropdown. –  Peter Olson Nov 15 '12 at 15:24
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One more issue: if travel to all countries is not possible (e.g. North Korea, Zimbabwe, Iraq are unlikely to be destinations) then you risk a large proportion of the map being completely wasted. –  DisgruntledGoat Nov 18 '12 at 20:43
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Another reason to not include maps is that some regions are disputed as to which Country owns it. To include the region in one country or another would upset the other Country.

For example: Why isn't my time zone highlighted on the world map?

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This is a good argument for going without a map entirely; or perhaps using it to select general geographic regions - as Americas, Eurasia, Africa, Oceania - as that way you can narrow down the selection and still avoid dealing with country border issues. –  BrendanMcK Nov 15 '12 at 12:48
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One problem with a map is the target area for some countries will be too small to select with a mouse. In the example map, selecting San Marino, Luxembourg, Lesotho, etc. would be difficult. In fact, the map shown above shows this problem exists because the highlighted area is several countries rather than one country. This means the user has to drill down into an area to select the destination. That might not be a problem if the user is unsure which country in a region is the destination but for somebody who knows their destination, it requires unnecessary steps.

A related problem with a map is the required use of a mouse. Anybody that has difficulty using a mouse will have difficulty with the map unless you create a way to navigate in the map using the keyboard.

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Agree with the above answer but would add that somebody who is geographically ignorant may take some time to select their required destination whereas an alphabetically ordered drop down is second nature for everyone.

A map may be better suited to provide inspiration.

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Avoid referring to answers by their relative position, because it will change with voting. –  scronide Nov 14 '12 at 20:13
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There are several possible problems with using a map, which the other answers adressed. However, I cannot see why you cannot use both solutions?

Show a map with selectable areas, but also show a dropdown which gives the same functionality.

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That's what I'd do as well: combination of map and dropdown(s) as alternative. A map might cause issues as stated above if it's a static map. But a map can create much better involvement and far better experience if it's interactive, working well and is designed nicely. –  John Sample Nov 15 '12 at 12:02
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It depends on how much value the map adds, and if it really does save time for "power users". Having both systems is an added complexity so just go with the simpler one. –  DisgruntledGoat Nov 18 '12 at 20:41
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My current project has a requirement for a region-based filter for content. A map is required because the regions are not common knowledge to most users.

Displaying a visual representation of the regions over the state map is necessary to help users identify which region(s) they are interested in.

In my implementation, the map is paired with a checkbox list. The user interacts exclusively with the input elements. This helps address some of the problems mentioned in other posts about usability across devices.

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

The key to this approach though is the map is a supplementary rather than a primary element of the interface. The map is read-only and is not the mechanism by which the user interacts with the interface.

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