New Digimap Data Downloader – Version 1

After a considerable amount of deliberation and discussion the version 1 of the new digimap downloader is ready to be tested.  Figure 1 shows the initial screen of the data downloader.  This is dominated by a large map window surrounded by a number of tools and lists.  The screen is designed to look similar to Digimap ROAM, EDINA’s web mapping interface which is the simplest way to access maps through the Digimap service.


Initial load page for Data Downloader

Version 1 took a bit longer to develop than we might have hoped. The reason for this is that it is pretty much a complete working system rather than a mock up.  So why would we go to the bother of creating a fully functional application that might well have to be modified considerably after User Interface(UI) testing.  The justification for this decission came from the persona interviews:

  • Users struggle to recognise the difference between data products
  • Users are comfortable interacting with sites such as Google Maps

In addition, the project team raised a number of concerns about where users may struggle with the proposed new interactive interface.

  • Will users be able to differentiate between what they see on the screen and what they order?
  • Will users interact with the map and the tools made available to select data?
  • Will users learn about different data products through the new download interface?

With all this in mind, it was decided that producing a “lite” wire-frame interface would not be suitable to explore the new design.  The complex nature of the data that users access through the download tool seems to have been the cause confusion in the old downloader.  For the new downloader to simplify this a fully functioning interface would be required for UI testing.

Version 1 Details

The new interface is made up 2 elements; a map window and a selections panel.

The map panel dominates the interface.  It provides an interactive way of selecting data.  Much of the functionality is taken directly from the Digimap ROAM service and employs technology commonly referred to as “Slippy Maps“.  This enables users to drag maps across the screen to scan to a new area, the scroll wheel to zoom in or out and double clicks to zoom in.  The technology is used in popular mapping sites including Google Maps and Bing Maps which should mean that the downloader should feel familiar to new users.  The map allows users to select the geographic area for which they want data.  It shows an appropriate map for the current scale and not the data product that a user want to download.

The selection panel is located to the left of the map window. The selection panel guides users through the process of selection an area and a product, or products, to download. At the top of the selection panel is the Search Box (fig 2), this gives the users two options to search for places; searching by place name and searching by grid reference.

Search Box

If the search term entered is not unique, for example Newcastle could refer to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne or to Newcastle-Under-Lyme, then a pop-up window will appear allowing users to select the option that they wanted.  As a user scrolls through the returned options the map window will refresh with the selected option visible. This should help the user get to the location they are interested in.

Below the search box is the Define Area section. This contains a series of tools that allow users to select areas that they want data for.  There are 6 buttons:

Define Area

  1. Draw rectangle – select an area by clicking and dragging on the map to draw a rectangle
  2. Pan – not strictly a selection tool, but allows users to toggle back to panning the map around. essentially de-selects the draw tools
  3. Enter bounding box – enter the coordinates of a box that covers the area that you need
  4. Add Tile Name – select data by specifying a national data grid tile name
  5. Define circle – enter the coordinates for the centre, and the radius of a circle. All data that the circle encompasses will be returned in the order.
  6. Define square – the same as define circle but with a square.

The 4 latter tools launch small pop-ups which contain text boxes to enter coordinates in.

Select Data Product

The Select Products section lists all the mapping products that area available for download through the download tool.  Data is grouped into 4 categories; Backdrop Mapping, Land and Height Data, Vector Data and Address & Location Data. This is where users can select one, or multiple datasets. Products are selected by checking a radio button on the left of the product name.  The download limits are given on the far right, this actually displays a fraction which is the selected area/data limit.  Each data product has an information pop-up which can be launched by clicking the info icon.  The padlock denotes data that is available as part of the OS Open data agreement.

The final section of the interface is the Basket area. This section allows users to add items they have selected to their basket, to view items they have already added to their basket and to manage their account information.


The basket button is initially greyed out and changes colour when a user has a product and an area selected. To place an order the user must click View Basket. This launches the Basket pop-up (Fig ). This shows all the products that have been added to the basket.  Users can remind themselves about the geographic area that the order is for by clicking the globe icon, or remove the item from the order by clicking on the trash can icon.  To complete the order, users simply have to name the order and click Place Order.

Basket Window

Help icons have been added to the interface design, but in most cases these are not populated.  The plan is to run some usability tests on this interface and get some feedback on what works and what doesn’t. I think it looks good, but am a bit worried that users will think that the data shown in the map window is what they will receive in their order.  This is not the case, the map window is just there to give the user some spatial context when placing their order. Time will tell I suppose. At least by having an almost fully functional interface will allow us to investigate this.

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