Looking for ways to improve guest experience, the Kansas City Zoo approached us to see if we had any ideas for updating the park map. The map was currently struggling with user comprehension and was often a pain point in guest experience at the zoo.
The current implementation of the map had a few weaknesses that we identified.
First, the paths and scale of the map were very abstract and not true to reality. This made it sometimes difficult to determine orientation and direction in the park and also made it difficult to determine how far apart landmarks were.
Secondly, the printed version of the map was split across a front and backside of a flyer. This was due to zoo being split into two main areas on either side of a river. Unfortunately, this made it challenging to gauge the distance between these two areas and guests weren’t able to see the entire map at once.
Thirdly, the online implementation of the map was simply a downloadable PDF of the flyer. While basically functional for desktop users, it was very difficult for mobile users to utilize the map. There was a lot of potential for a fully responsive, interactive version of the map that could engage users much more.
Path to success
We proposed a complete redesign of the map with an emphasis on accuracy and comprehension. Our plan covered three strategies to improve the usability and overall experience of the map.
To improve user comprehension, we wanted to increase the accuracy of the map to be as true-to-reality as possible. We decided to accomplish this by recording latitude and longitude information for all of the landmarks and pathways of the zoo so that the final result was fully geo-accurate.
This not only provides an extremely accurate map, but this also allows us to develop GPS features in the future which would allow for real-time information to be provided to users. For example, “You are Here” markers could be enabled when browsing the map on a mobile device with GPS.
Next, we proposed adding more landmarks to make the map more usable and easier to orient yourself to. There were a handful of animals, buildings, and other locations that weren’t included in the current version of the map that could be added.
Labels & Icons
The third strategy was to overhaul the labels and icons. With more usable icons and a clearer color scheme, we believed we could increase user comprehension and overall legibility with some focus on the iconography and typography.
Creating the map wireframe
The first stage in creating the map was to document the latitude and longitude coordinates for every exhibit, building, facility, landmark, and pathway in the zoo. We developed a process of converting those latitude and longitude coordinates into x/y coordinates that were used to create a base wireframe.
After mapping over 1,800 coordinates, we were able to establish a wireframe. This served as the foundation upon which all of the design elements of the map could be built and help us to maintain a high level of accuracy.
The design of the map
With the wireframe finished, we then focused on illustrations, colors, iconography, typography, and other details.
Our vision for the design of the map was something primarily practical, but also fun to use and visually engaging. Usability and legibility were priority but we wanted to augment the functionality of the map with a look and feel that was fun and interesting.
We recognized that the user experience of the map was more than just helping a guest navigate the zoo but that it was also the primary guide for a guest’s experience at the zoo and it needed to act almost as an “activity ambassador” and provide a taste-and-see experience on its own.
This is evident in that the zoo map page was one of the most visited pages on the website. We found that users often use the map first as a way to gauge what there is to do at the zoo and what would most interest them. We wanted to capitalize on that interest by designing a map that would excite them to visit the zoo through engaging visuals.
With the new map design finished, we then began adapting the map for use online.
Using the map online
To translate the map for use online, we integrated it into a standard map browsing interface, similar to google maps. This allows for panning and zooming within the browser natively.
We also enabled interactivity features such as rollover information on each of the landmarks, with the goal of providing a more engaging experience to guests.
The final result is a map we are very happy with and proud of. We think it will do an excellent job of guiding visitors through the zoo and engaging users in new ways. We are excited to see the map serve the needs of guests in the zoo and potential visitors online.
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