I am working on visualizing year-on-year data in a map. This data needs to be shown on the map, show what year the data was recorded in, and convey the frequency/total amount of records at a specific point.

Initially I planned to show this using a simple 2D map, with different colored icons for each year, and using a number label to show the total count at a specific point, but the problem/challenge I encountered was how to convey multiple points at the same location that were different years.

My other idea was to instead use a 3D map, and stack visual markers on the map colored based on the year the data was recorded in. This has the benefit of showing what locations are more popular in a more visual way, and being able to show recordings at the same location with different years, but it still does not feel like the best solution: 3D map visual

If the points overlap but are not the same position, you can get this weird stacking effect like you see in the bottom left. This may also become slow to load for larger datasets (up to 10,000 records could be shown on the map at a time).

Any ideas, suggestions, or examples of how to show year-on-year data on a map that clearly conveys frequency, the year it was recorded, and is a good experience for the end user, would be much appreciated.

1 Answer 1


I can see that there are quite a few filters and input parameters on this map based UI, so the key here is to create an interface that is consistent with the underlying data that you want to represent. While we can't really say what will be a good experience for the end user (because we don't know the most common or complex use cases), there are lots of best practice examples that you can reference from sites like Map UI Patterns.

There are couple of different dimensions and/or properties to each data point, and this is the primary reason for the difficulty in coming up with a clean and simple solution. Rather than introducing 3D maps, you can actually achieve a similar effect of showing different data categories by using a rich marker to encode the information or with cluster markers to encode the quantitative values.

The use of different colours to categories the different years can be a bit confusing for the user, so I think using the same colour in different shades or hues might achieve a better result, and also let more recent data become more prominent on the map.

One thing to consider is that once you start incorporating or accumulating data for say more than 5 different years, the information is going to get quite cluttered on the map no matter how you choose to display all the details. So it is important at this stage of your design process to think about not only the immediate problem, but the impact that your design decisions now will have on future features added to the application.

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