Map based applications are becoming a part of our daily life, from using Google Maps to find locations to booking a Uber. However, there doesn't appear to be a set of standards and guidelines when it comes be map based interfaces except for what we commonly see in Google or specialized GIS applications.

Is anyone aware of any guidelines published for interface design for map interfaces, or if there are some standard/common components that are consistent across different map based applications/interfaces.

Things that I can think of which is relevant (but not always consistent) are:

  • map markers
  • map layers
  • find direction or way-finding widget/feature
  • map navigation features (zoom, pan, scroll)
  • display of location info (address, long/lat)

2 Answers 2


Short Answer, No

I am not sure such standards exist as digital mapping is still a very young industry. Many of the items you list appear to be used as part of the branding and visual differentiation used by a particular map service.

OpenStreetMap Has Potential

You can find standards defined in the OpenStreetMap wiki, which is an open source project (for guidelines defined through some external consistency), but it is a single map/project. Another pro of OpenStreetMap is that is used by other tools and mapping services (Mapbox, ArcGIS, various weather services) creating some consistency through practical application (easier to use what OSM provides than design and build it from scratch.)

OpenStreetMap Wiki: https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Map_features

Look Beyond Digital

The field of cartography has some standardization guides defined by some institutions. Here is a link to the U.S. Geological Survey agency and their mapping standards. The transportation features are likely most relevant to the typical digital map consumer's use cases; the others are far more focused on geological behavior and attributes.



As probably the most used online map, Google Maps is going to set the standard.

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