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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Campus Maps

As an academic I can't count how many different college campuses I have visited. Most US universities produce beautiful glossy maps to make it easy to navigate to and around the university but you can't get one of these maps unless someone mails you a copy. So I go to the university's website and can usually find a page of maps.

The University of Wisconsin map page has a beautiful flash version of their campus map. Someone put considerable time to design such a completely useless map. What am I supposed to do, walk around campus with my laptop open to figure my way around? Wisconsin also has a PDF version of their map but when printed the type is so small the map is also useless. Admittedly Chicago does not do maps much better.

The glossy maps are typically much larger than the usual printer page, but still universities can do better than just creating PDFs of shrunken versions of their usual map. Princeton, has their useless interactive map, but their printed map does a nicer job with a second page having a building directory very useful with a duplex printer.

Some day we will carry portable GPS devices which when we visit a campus will download building information and guide us to where we want to go. Until that day universities should take the effort they use to create fancy interactive maps and instead focus on producing a "print and go" map designed specifically for standard letter-size paper.

10 comments:

  1. As our university administration says, our web site is not about being useful, it is a marketing tool. Fancy flash maps fit that model.

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  2. This map of Auburn University won some award last year.. looks damn neat too!

    https://oitapps.auburn.edu/campusmap/

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  3. When visiting a university, it's annoying that I need two separate maps to navigate: Google Maps to find the university, and the Campus Map to find the right building.

    There's an interesting project at MSR that gives a solution: they can overlay any map on top of Microsoft's Virtual Earth (a Google Maps competitor). In fact, you can download their tool and overlay any map by yourself.

    Check out:
    http://research.microsoft.com/mapcruncher/
    or
    http://research.microsoft.com/mapcruncher/Gallery/Universities/

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  4. "There's an interesting project at MSR that gives a solution: they can overlay any map on top of Microsoft's Virtual Earth"

    Couldn't you already do this from day 1 with Google Earth?

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  5. The interactive maps are useful--for people already somewhat familiar with campus who are looking for Obscure Hall.

    I agree that high-quality printable maps are often neglected, but the interactive ones are not fairly called useless.

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  6. "Couldn't you already do this from day 1 with Google Earth?"

    With the MSR project, you overlap PDF files, and make the background transparent. Also, you can make your overlayed map available online for anyone else to use.

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  7. With the MSR project, you overlap PDF files, and make the background transparent. Also, you can make your overlayed map available online for anyone else to use.

    Wow! This sounds like a really ambitious research project ;-)

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  8. why do you need hitech devices like GPSes, online maps when on campus. it would help if colleges put "physical" maps at a few conveneint locations which can be consulted. being colleges there would also be enough humans around who can guide you.

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  9. "being colleges there would also be enough humans around who can guide you."

    Humans are so passe.

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  10. UNLV' maps RULE! Very easy to understand and find your way around campus. Given the campus is not that big, but the school is still young.
    http://maps.unlv.edu/

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