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I have an app which highly depends on maps. Should I allow the user to zoom in, pinch, and other things or should constraint it to only the current location.

My application tracks the users location and tells them how many meters they ran.

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I am a runner. I use tracking apps. While running I may not be interested another location. However, when running in an unfamiliar location, being able to zoom out and see your location in relation to more familiar points on the map is very useful. When paused I may want to see my current location in relation to where I started. And after my run I will most certainly want to zoom in on some part of the run to see my stats (pace, heart rate) at a specific point in the run. I'd probably feel very restricted if unable to zoom in and out. – Marjan Venema Nov 25 '12 at 9:59
Thanks for all the posts. I will allow the user to pinch and zoom in the map..... – Programmer... Nov 25 '12 at 18:31
Try putting yourself in the shoes of the user. If your running path goes beyond the current "horizon" would you like to pinch to zoom out? – edgarator Nov 25 '12 at 22:32
Yes, I am going to allow the user to pinch and zoom. Thanks for the help. – Programmer... Nov 25 '12 at 22:33
up vote 4 down vote accepted

The clues to the answer lie in the wording of the question. Should I allow...should I constrain it. i.e. You are asking if you should restrict the user activities.

Typically users have an expectation of interaction with a map via familiarity with other applications. They expect to be able to pan and zoom. Often this functionality comes free with a map interface anyway.

The problem with you constraining the user is that by doing so you are suggesting that you know exactly what people want to do when they use your app, and you understand every use case and every nuance of usage and you have decided that there are no (or insignificant) cases where a user would need to change scale or location.

The problem with that is that there is no accounting for how people will use your app - in what circumstance, in what kind of terrain, or in what part of the world. You cannot know that your runners will be on their first run of a quarter of a mile, or whether they are experienced long distance runners doing a coast to coast run across the UK.

You may have an idea of how you or some percentage of users will want to interact, but you cannot account for everyone. By unnecessarily incorporating restrictions, then you run the risk of alienating a percentage of your potential users, or losing them after some period of use, or even excluding a whole different audience that you had not thought of. For example cyclists may actually find that your app is perfect for them - assuming they could pan/zoom the map.

Never assume you know how all users will use your product.

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We have become accustomed to being able to zoom in and pan digital maps. Not allowing that is likely to frustrate your customers and, from what I have read, there is no good reason for it.

Allow zooming and panning unless you have a good reason not to.

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Thank You, for your advice @JohnGB. – Programmer... Nov 28 '12 at 5:11

It sounds like you want to use a map to tell users how many meters they ran. Say John is using your app. Will John say he wants to see another spot on the map, besides where he currently is? Is there somewhere on the map John wants to run to?

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Thank You, for your advice. – Programmer... Nov 25 '12 at 5:28
Can you expand on this answer? It's not really an answer at present, it's more some questions directed back at the OP. – JonW Nov 25 '12 at 13:02
Personas are a tool to answer questions. It's important that we teach non-designers the process. At this stage of the question being asked currently, this would be an answer. – Tyler Langan Nov 25 '12 at 16:16

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