Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Default Layer Icons

I'm back after a great break in Spain, I haven't touched a computer in 10 days which has been refreshing.

Frank's Opinion: Over at Google Earth Blog Frank comments on the new layer icons in Google Earth, his criticisms are:
- They're too small
- They're often redundant (Places and Wikipedia discuss the same location)
- They're all the same color

Here's a screen shot:

Its deliberately small so that you can get a sense of how the icons mix together. As you can see, on a gray background (this is the Thames in London) the icons fail to 'pop out' at you.

My Opinion: I agree with Frank except for the size. I think if they had different colors then the size would work. However, I have some additional views:
  • Double Halo: The icons just have a white halo around them, to make sure they stand out against all backgrounds they need a white and a black halo around them.
  • Hidden Content: Google use region control to keep the view uncluttered; as you zoom in more icons appear but not so many to block the view. This does work but in the process causes the 'hidden content' problem.
  • Icon consistency: Google keep on changing the icons they use for this content. This is a problem as people come to associate an icon with certain content so consistency is important. You can change an icon so as to improve it but leave it recognisably the same icon (like this) but Google have binned their whole design and started from scratch.
To illustrate the color and double halo and size points, I've added some icons to this view:

To be fair, I've bumped up the size slightly but if you look carefully I've made the icons translucent which reduces screen clutter back down. I think they stand out from the background (pop out) and stand out from each other much better than Google's icons.

Discovery Icon: I also don't like the discovery Icon middle left. To be fair to Google, they probably have a deal with the Discovery channel to use their trademark 'as is' but as a map icon its way too busy is too large and, again, has no double halo.

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