New answers tagged maps
Whereas I think Michael's answer is great and pretty exhaustive, I think main options to consider in your case would be: Shape of the markers top (and overall shape — pointed for main markers or round for secondary, and so forth), Color coding of the markers, Size (with only two-three sizes, as markers are already quite small, and it's hard to ...
Have you considered moving the map, rather than moving the "pin"? Scrolling a map is a common action in most map applications, if you keep the reticule static and move the map underneath it, the user can target their desired position. The text in the box should update as the user scrolls. This might allow you to get away with no additional help messaging. ...
Here is my solution - crosshair. Map can be moved but selected location is obvious. Screenshot is a few years old, hence Android 2.x maps and widgets.
Just to think outside the box I've decided to paste a radical suggestion to this, as I have called it "map-tap" problem :) Imagine if a low opacity touch gesture image appeared over the map either for a few seconds and then disappear or it would stay there, lingering like a ghost, hinting to the user what to do. When a user taps the map it would disappear. ...
You could de-emphasize the search field, e.g. by not showing it by default. Just say "Choose a location" in the head of the screen, and have a magnifying glass button that pops up the search field for people who want to enter an address. Something like this: Even if you don't go with this approach, you might want to adjust your text sizes and wording. ...
Spell it out to the user. You don't want to leave them guessing so I would recommend you add a simple addition to your UI. Note the change of language in the search box. By saying choose location you are more or less saying "do it here", whereby now it is clear it is just one of two options.
Since users are likely to see the entry form first, how about using the placeholder text for this? "Enter location or just pick from map ..."
Why not use different coloured marker icons to show relationships between different markers on the map? E.g. all the green markers belong to the same group. Or even have custom marker shapes if the groups have a specific context.
I'm thinking about a super-complex situation - a dense, interwoven web of points. There might not be any neat way to both make the group visually distinct and not make the screen messy. If this is a desktop app, perhaps try to use very low-contrast lines to connect the points, and "light-up" the group (points and lines) on mouse-over. Consider this ...
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