[OSM-talk] Actually using OpenStreetMap and the usability of the current maps
inge at lysator.liu.se
Mon Jul 28 10:44:35 BST 2008
This is a mail that I have been wanting to send for some time, but wanted to
think a little more about the subject before I actually did.
The topic is how the maps of OpenStreetMap are actually used by ordinary
users. I know that the data of OSM is supposed to be used in new exciting
ways like the cycle maps, but the majority of the users are just going to use
what the programmers have made available to them.
So the question then becomes, is the current renderings good? For which
Before we can discuss how good the maps are, we have to describe the intended
use cases. I will start with my own here, and hope that you will fill in your
own ways of using maps in general and OSM in particular.
I recently bought a cheap navigator, but before that I often used a commercial
Swedish map services to navigate to places when I went there for my work. I'd
print out the map on paper on a low zoom level, showing where I would go on
large roads. Then I'd print out maps using higher and higher zoom levels
closer and closer to my goal so that I can see which intermediate and smaller
roads that I'd have to take to reach my goal.
So, would OSM work for that usecase? No, I don't think so. Here is why:
* Names! There are far too few names on the map, especially on low zoom
levels. It's difficult to get a feeling for where you are and orient yourself
on the map if you cannot find names on the map. The commercial maps show lots
and lots of names, and that is a good thing. We should make names appear on
the maps earlier.
* Distinctions between roads. In opposition to the case for names, there are
too many roads on the large scale maps. Here is what the current map looks
like around my home city:
There is too little distinction between the motorway, the few primary
highways and the secondary. I don't think the tertiary highways should even
be on that map. Once they are all mapped they will provide a messy background
making the important roads even more difficult to see.
* Marking important roads. In the map above, you can also see that there is no
marking of even the motorway (E4) or primary roads (in this case national
roads 34 and 50). This is like names for cities, towns and villages: it makes
it more difficult to follow where you are on the map.
So, what are other use cases for OSM? Are the current OSM renderings good for
those use cases? Do we need more different renderings for different use
I think that OSM has reached a state of maturity where we need to start
discussing how the default renderings are used in real life.
More information about the talk