Wishlist – Google Map or Campus Map

google map or campus map
Posted under: Uni iPhoneApp Reviews 10th of May, 2011

Summary

In the course of the iPhone App War review between Griffith and QUT, it was particularly noticeable how differently the two universities approached the use of maps. The comparisons below are intended to provide some suggestions to help universities decide between using Google Maps or Campus maps in their own iPhone apps.

Griffith uses its own “homegrown” campus maps, while QUT has opted for the native GoogleMap.  “Homegrown” or campus maps, are great for mapping local content specfically about the university provided it is easy to read on an iPhone and has high resolution.  Meanwhile GoogleMaps are already optimised for zooming in and out, but requires local content to be inserted, eg Hotspot, Library, bus stop, car parks, etc.

Griffith University

“Griffith App” for the iPhone uses campus or “homegrown” maps. These maps can usually be seen around campus with giant ‘You are here’ stickers on them. The advantage of being built by the university means that there is a higher level of attention to details, such as, individual parking spots, pathways, and access to buildings.  A handy legend also provides richer information to the user about the meaning of symbols on the map.  However, it looks like the map was created using pretty basic drawing software as the map becomes pixelated when typical iPhone magnification is used.  Also, the legend was obviously part of the original map but because of the iPhone’s small screen, it requires the user to scroll back and forth between the map and the legend (painful). ps. pdf maps don’t work well as an iPhone app.

Things that can be improved: Updating the map file and “vectorising” it, so that the map is easy-to-read because it needs to maintain its high resolution when zooming in and out. Also anchoring the legend to the screen so it moves when the user scrolls, as well as being collapsible so it doesn’t constantly cover the screen.

Queensland University of Technology

“QUT Mobile” for the iPhone uses Google map.  Google map has been integrated into the app with anchor attached to all campuses making it  easy for the user to find them.  The maps provided by Google are of very high quality and maintain their high resolution even when magnified.  However, the level of details and university-specific content provided to the user is pretty basic and limited to the locations of building and major roads on campus.  Overlays were used to help with this problem, nonetheless the maps are still very bare.

Possible improvements.  More overlays to help locate bus stops, taxi ranks, and pathways.

A handy feature of GoogleMap is the ability to pinpoint the user’s location on the map, which is definitely a positive advantage over campus maps.  However, with the use of an anchor, it is possible for campus maps to also show the user’s location while on-campus.
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Recommendation: 

If universities are going to use GoogleMap, they need to have a substantial number of useful overlays of handy local content. QUT uses overlays that highlight areas based on what the user is looking for, while another university (UQ) which also uses GoogleMap, does it slightly differently by pinpointing the locations based upon the user’s search criteria (That’s quite clever).

On the other hand, for universities which decide to use Campus maps, they need to make sure they use high resolution maps, as well as anchoring the legend, so that you don’t have to scroll backwards and forwards.

Seen better use of maps? Leave a comment.

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