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We're designing a map applications that allows you to set starting and ending points to plan a route and we're not sure which colors to associate with the two markers.

This is what we've got so far, and they we're chosen without much basis:

enter image description here

Are there any indications that users might have certain stronger associations between some colors and start and end?

Should we try to go with the trend since users might be more used this?

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Look at Google Maps, Bing Maps, HERE Maps (which is partly connected to Bing), and Apple Maps.

These are the market leaders. This is what users see. This is what their expectations are based on.

You go to each website, type in a route, and see what are the icons.

Quick research (10 minutes)

  • HERE: lilac for start, "finish flag" pattern for finish
  • Bing: green for start, red for finish (with A and B used)
  • Google: circle with single stroke for start, circle with a stroke and a dot inside for finish (actually, this is UML convention, the finish looks like a target)
  • Apple: green for start, red for finish
  • iGo: ?? for start, "finish flag" for finish
  • MapQuest - green for start, red for finish (with A and B used)
  • Yahoo! - green for start, red-orange-ish for finish (with A and B used)
  • Yandex - red for start, blue for finish (with A and B used)
  • Mail.ru - a play sign for start, "finish flag" for finish (both blue)
  • Baidu - green for start, red for finish (likely words start and finish written in)
  • Mapy.cz - green for start, red for finish

So, three conventions are profound:

  • green for start, red for finish
  • various things for start, finish pattern for finish
  • A for start, B for finish

Google Maps seems to be a deviation, but they are de facto market leaders, I guess, if they used a dog for start and a cat for finish, people would get used to that too.

I suggest to pick some which supports your thinking, do some screenshots, and present it as a comparative market research.

  • +1 Google Maps also uses green and red for start and finish when giving you directions to get from A to B. Yes, uses those letters as well :-) – Marjan Venema May 16 '14 at 19:26
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Generally, color selection is very much a matter of graphic design (for which there's a separate Stackexchange site) but there are at least two UX considerations here as well.

  1. A very strong practically universal convention says that green means go and red means stop. This would suggest green for start and red for end.

  2. Your markers should stand out on the map so it's easy to find them quickly. Most maps are heavy on white, yellow, green and light gray, like in your screenshot. Red pops out immediately. Blue is a bit more difficult to find, although it should also be ok (unless your origin and destination locations can be on water). Immediate visual pop-out on the map should be an important criterion in your color selection process.

  • I was also going to mention the Go-green/stop-red, so +1 on that. The blue color is commonly used to mark the users current position, if that is available. – Babossa May 15 '14 at 20:39
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Many many users have experience with Google Maps, which uses a reddish color for points of interest/destinations, so that might be a good place to start.

One route you could take would be to change the actual icon for the starting location, to be different than the destination.

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