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We’ve made more improvements to Koordinates

After several months of iterations and user testing, we’re excited to launch another significant update to collections and viewing spatial or a-spatial datasets.

Dan

Posted by Dan Newman
July 28th, 2017

OneMap

In November last year, we made some big changes to koordinates.com. Beyond the overall look and feel of the site, we refined the search and appraise workflows, added ‘Collections’ and made the site responsive for mobile and tablet devices. The aim was always, in the tradition of all good tech companies, to release what we had and spend 2017 iterating our designs. 

Since then we’ve been watching how people have responded to the new design direction and changes to the user experience. As we’ve seen more and more people accessing spatial data often without a background in GIS, we’ve been trying to find ways to help these users more easily find and use data. This is part of our broader mission at Koordinates to radically increase the use and impact of data.

For the last six months, we’ve been making these iterations. Some are small tweaks and fixes that didn’t always warrant an announcement; others, like the new homepage, were larger.

During this time, there were two major elements we knew we could improve on: your collections of data; and how we display multiple layers on the map. To guide our improvements, earlier this year we went looking for more user testers to help provide feedback about new and existing features on koordinates.com.

We shared updated designs with this group and observed what changes worked and what changes didn’t work. We’d like to say a huge thank you to all those who took time to meet with us and test designs. It’s now time to share what’s changed with everyone.

Spatial and a-spatial data

As part of the updates late last year, we also introduced a new ‘grid’ view of data that was designed to allow for larger thumbnails of maps, tables, documents, and images to appear alongside each other. Our aim was to make it easier to browse and discover all data on the site, not just maps.

Working closely with our users, we realised that most people still wanted the ‘map’ view front and centre. So we’ve decided to make the map the ‘default’ view when people come to the site, though we’ve made it easy to switch to the ‘grid’ view by clicking ‘Hide Map’.

While most users know Koordinates for its spatial data, we also publish a growing amount of ‘a-spatial’ data — particularly data tables from publishers like the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ. To better serve users of this data, we’ve made it easier to switch off the map and get a full-screen view of data tables.

This is exciting for us. For years now, we’ve talked internally about ‘doing the hard bit’ — i.e. handling spatial data — first. But as we’ve grown, we’ve seen that users don’t naturally segment themselves into ‘spatial’ and ‘non-spatial’ users. They see themselves as simply ‘data users,’ and we’ve set ourselves the challenge of getting these users all the data they need, easily and simply, from a single platform. With these latest changes we think they now get the best of both. 

Collections

The biggest part of the user experience we’ve changed is how collections work. With the original launch of collections we introduced a new ‘side panel’ to see a summary of what layers you might be planning on viewing or exporting.

After doing more testing of this feature with users, we’ve decided to combine the map with your collection. We initially thought it best to allow users to just view single layers on the map, and when they wanted to combine them or view multiple layers, add them to their collection. This extra step wasn’t always clear and got in the way of quickly comparing layers for some users.

They’ll be pleased to know it’s now much easier to view any layer on a map alongside all the layers from your collection, apply a single crop to all of the items in your collection, and view information about datasets alongside the map.

Cropping

With our release last year, some users had difficulties in applying crops. We believe these latest updates will make cropping collections easier. The changes to the way collections work — and the return to the use of a single map across koordinates.com — now mean you can also apply a crop to your map and collection at any time.

We also felt it was important to release this as we continue to increase the amount of data on the platform. As the quantity of data grows, the ease with which users can find, layer and export that data becomes ever more important. Being able to crop just parts of layers is a critical part of that process.

Design Details

Alongside the big changes to how the collection and map now works, this update was also a chance to refine many of the little things that hadn’t quite made the cut in previous releases. These include:

  • You can now export a layer directly from the search results

  • The interface is now — and this is technical design terminology — ‘less dark’

  • The export screen includes a way to select which layers will be included in your download

  • You can easily expand and collapse the data table for a layer to see more columns

  • The summary of what’s in your collection has been simplified and easier to see

What’s Next?

For now, these improvements are only available on koordinates.com, but we’re preparing to release the new designs to other sites on the platform.

There are a few things that need to happen before we do that such as the current migration of the LINZ, MfE and Landcare Research Data Services to the cloud and Koordinates ID.

Whilst that’s happening we’ll continue to refine this latest update and are keen to hear what you think. If you haven’t yet provided any feedback and would like to, you can let us know on Twitter or get in touch via our contact page.