So the problem is a follows, I would like to show user's location overlaid on a map, but the geo data for each user is only pulled from the server every 5 minutes or so, thus there is a decrease in accuracy as time goes on before the next icon refresh, upon which the avatar will move to represent the users new current location, and the cycle starts again. Has anyone got any ideas?

So far, I have:

  1. The Avatar dims as time since the last update increases. (Opacity = Accuracy)

  2. There is a radial level going around (or a straight one above or beside) that empties as the time since the last update increases or the other way around. (Guage level = accuracy)

  3. Avatar size increases on map to depict the increase in distance (radius) that the user could be from that point. Contracting again upon refresh.

Any thoughts?

  • Hi @ted, please see the help section for relevant questions. Due to the ambiguity of icons, questions related to icons are not welcome here.
    – Izhaki
    Mar 25, 2014 at 22:00
  • I'm no UX expert, but I'm wondering if the viewer of the map even needs to know that the "accuracy" of the displayed position degrades between polls. I think users of modern applications are well trained to infer that a "real time" map that doesn't update in real time just has a very slow refresh rate. Mar 25, 2014 at 22:01
  • I certainly understand what you are saying, I think though that in this situation the refresh rate is going to be so slow and the desire for an impression of data accuracy (as opposed to accuracy of the position) so high that ideally there would be some way of informing the user.
    – ted
    Mar 25, 2014 at 22:09
  • 3
    This is on topic. He isn't asking what "icon should I use", he's asking "how do I indicate that a point on the map is only accurate as of a certain time that may or may not be 'recent'". Just because an icon (or avatar) is mentioned doesn't mean insta-close. Mar 26, 2014 at 14:40
  • 1
    Thanks @CharlesWesley ! This is better way of defining it perhaps.
    – ted
    Mar 26, 2014 at 21:30

1 Answer 1


Will the geo data for all users be pulled in a batch every 5 minutes?

If so you could probably do away with the (potentially confusing) changing avatars, and simply put something on the top or bottom of the screen advising the user of the time since the last refresh - You might even give the user the ability to 'force' a refresh of the data.

If you were choosing one of the two options you presented, I'd lean towards the opacity solution - I think it would look neat, communicate freshness of data (avatars could become invisible if no new coordinates were obtained), and you'd avoid having to do any assumption about how fast a person might be travelling (with the growing circle solution).

  • Thank you - that's an interesting answer; putting something at the bottom of the screen. I'll play around with that.
    – ted
    Apr 1, 2014 at 21:54

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