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I am working on an android app that uses google maps. The app uses google maps to help users select a location.

Should i add buttons for zoom in and zoom out on the map? I find that the default google maps app and ios maps doesnt have zoom in/out buttons anymore. Are they being replaced by the pinch to zoom or tap to zoom gestures?

  • Please anyone answering this take into account that many times the user will be using just one hand ;) – golimar Jan 25 '15 at 17:53
  • If it is using Google Maps then you might assume that users will expect the same UI elements to be available. If it is not clear (or clearly designed) that your app uses it, or if you intend to make it styled more like an Android app then that's another context of use you'll have to consider. – Michael Lai Aug 12 '18 at 21:34
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It is a question of the usability.

If you use zoom in / out buttons, you must think about the location of the buttons.
If you're using small buttons, it will be hard to tap a button or maybe you tap on the map itself and do something you won't to do.

It would be helpful to see your existing UI where you implement the map. If you already have a lot element, I wouldn't use buttons, because it will get hard to handle on smaller smartphones.
Especially when you develop for android devices, hold in mind that there are different screen sizes. Your app should be easy to handle on small screens and also on bigger screens. Here a quote of a Stackoverflow Answer about the minimum screen resolution:

According to the latest Compatibility Definition Document, the definition for screen configurations require that:

Screens MUST be at least 2.5 inches in physical diagonal size Density
MUST be at least 100 dpi
The aspect ratio MUST be between 1.333 (4:3) and 1.779 (16:9)
The display technology used consists of square pixels

In practical terms, the lowest screen resolution currently being used is QVGA (240x320). There are a couple of phones that use this resolution including the HTC Tattoo and Wildfire. The smallest device I'm aware of is the 2.55" QVGA Sony Ericsson X10 Mini.

Source

And another question is, how important is the design of your app?
If you already have a UI around the map, you maybe could implement the buttons into the existing UI.
IMO, there are three possibilities:

Use the Buttons in your already existing UI
You implement the map in a self-made UI and implement the zoom buttons in it.
Example:
enter image description here
And please apologize my stunning paint-skills ;-)

Use the in-map zoom buttons by Google itself
The Google Map API provide Zoom In / Out Buttons by default, which just must be activated with UiSettings.setZoomControlsEnabled(boolean). Source
They look like the following screenshot:
enter image description here
enter image description here

Don't use any buttons
If you don't use any buttons, the screen looks cleaner. The most of the user know how to zoom wihtout buttons on google maps. If you want a clean screen or you already have many UI elements on the screen, don't implement the buttons.

  • Thanks a lot for your detailed answer. That was great help. My screen has lot of other elements too. So i guess removing the zoom buttons makes sense. – Hashir N A Jan 26 '14 at 10:29
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I can almost bet that the thinking behind not implementing the buttons is because the zoom/pinch gestures are almost considered second nature these days.

The tradeoff for a lack of this indication (pinch/zoom actions) is a cleaner UI that allows the user to focus on the content, which in this case is finding a location on a map. The buttons within a mobile context of such limited real estate can be of a nuisance and can just get in the way

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