There’s a proper time and place for standard maps, but the enterprise mobility space in 2015 is neither. There are few things more jarring than otherwise perfectly designed data overlaid on an undesigned map.
Unfortunately, custom map tiles come with a price tag, sometimes thousands of dollars per year, so you’ll need stakeholder buy-in. That’s why we’re here to give you some selling points.
The costs may be high, but the benefits far exceed them; not only are custom tiles more aesthetically pleasing, but their flexibility in features and stylization is better for usability and brand equity as well. They allow you to cut through the clutter and display only what’s important to your users and what helps them do their job. The increased flexibility also allows your team to design additional features into your map that may further improve the overall experience. Here are some of those benefits explained:
Custom tiles allow you to design out gratuitous information, the clutter that comes as a package deal with out-of-the-box mapping software. Often, historic landmarks, retail store listings, and government offices all stand as barriers to the information that enterprise mobile users are really there for.
They probably won’t need to know that Forever 21 is just around the corner, but they will need to know that their employees are en route to the new construction job that just broke ground last week. So customizing your map features can help reduce cognitive load by eliminating information that’s in the way. You can keep (or add) the landmarks that might help with navigation and remove those that don’t.
A Simpler Map
Yes, it gets better. Color palettes and iconography in enterprise mobility are extremely important. Rarely do we have a palette that doesn’t convey a message about temperature, pressure, alarm status, or logistics. Custom map design allows us to well, customize. We’re able to fit the map’s palette within the system we’ve already designed, ensuring the most important information is visible, readable, and displayed as intended. With custom design, the data can be highlighted and the background, the actual map, can recede.
Custom Map Features for a Better Experience
Custom mobile maps means customized features. Do you need to track delivery trucks and their contents from a distribution center to their destinations? Maybe you’ve designed a complicated interaction that highlights those distribution patterns, but your basic map option doesn’t support it. With custom maps and a few extra lines of code, that interaction is suddenly possible and your users are empowered to monitor their business.
Something as simple as zooming in and out is often not included in basic map options. The ability to manipulate the display from macro to micro view is absolutely essential in enterprise business. When evaluating workflows and logistics in the field, the micro view of minute details can shed light on the “how’s and why’s” that employees and management all need to do their jobs.
Perception and Brand Equity
All of these benefits and many not listed here, individually, add to usability scores, but together they can boost the user’s perception of your entire company.
A sleek, well-designed map that contains all the information they need — and none of the details they don’t — tells them that you really care about the digital tools you provide, the people that use them, and the perception of your company in the marketplace. In this way, custom maps can add to your brand equity, the actual value derived from the user’s perception of your company. Stakeholders in the upper echelons are likely to understand the ROI of brand investments. Use that to your advantage when getting buy-in.
Sometimes You’ll Have To Settle
While I’m sold on the ROI of custom maps, we all know that sometimes there’s no way around it — sometimes it’s just not in the budget; as designers we need to know about these restrictions up front so that we can account for them in our initial wireframe design [read: we need to have the forethought and gumption to ask]. There will always be tradeoffs in any project, usually many of them, so if customized map features are absolutely essential to yours, try to make concessions elsewhere.