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  1. Default Feature Requests

    Hello again!

    After using the RTA for a test run today, I have a few ideas for improvements that would either add functionality that I really want, or improve existing functionality to make it more usable (in my mind) -- I totally understand that different people have different needs/uses, or some of my issues may have work arounds (or functionality I just couldn't find) -- but I always feel like the best way to develop a useful tool is to at least hear/discuss all the ideas people have, so here goes. For each request, I will include a description of how I am using/plan to use the tool, a description of the request, and an explanation of why I believe it would be useful.

    1. "Improved My Custom Places Management": I plan to have hundreds, or probably thousands, of entries under "My Custom Places" - many of them will fall onto only one or two of my probably 50-100 "My Maps" -- personally, I do not expect to ever have a "My Routes" or any of the other ideas listed there. (We make up routes as we go, based on our mood, the time of day, and when our next activity starts/ends) -- the UI doesn't lend itself well to this. On my test map, I have 15 entries in "My Custom Places" and three "My Maps" -- the custom places list seems like it will quickly become unusable and unwieldy with even a hundred entries, let alone a thousand. Furthermore, it's likely that "My Maps" will be such that for any given road trip, I only need one (or maybe as many as four or five) maps, but my account would still have all my previous road trip maps. This feature request could probably be filled out to fifty smaller feature requests, but I believe the relationship between maps, places, and what's in the UI could be made significantly more user friendly (and powerful) with some simple goals (I can think of a variety of ways to implement each goal, and I don't really see huge pros/cons to any of them):

    1.a: Hide Old Maps. I want a map of every house I've ever lived in. I want a map of where I actually went on a road trip. I want maps to plan road trips. I want all my old road trips. But at any given time, I only want a couple maps to toggle on/off for my current activity. I should be able to hide old maps. (Archive maps, using a separate configuration page? Or perhaps have a higher level category "Trips" which have maps in them (like maps have places), and you can select one trip from a pulldown at a time, and the Maps list only populates with maps in that trip? (A map should be able to be in multiple trips if this is the case)...

    1.b: A "Hide Places Not On Map(s)" option. Right now, the "My Custom Places" list seems to show every place I've ever saved, on all maps, or even on no maps. While this helps you add them to new maps, it also makes the list nearly unusable most of the time. If I am viewing a map for my planned road trip, I want a nice concise list of places on that map, which I can use to access the information about those places. (I realize I can click the locations on the map, but I might only remember the name, and not where it is.) -- other options for lists of places, like sorting by name instead of number could be thrown in here too.

    1.c: Basically, I feel like I naturally think of using a map like this as interacting with some set of data. There's RTA data, which you have search options for, and there's my personal data, which I need to manage. Most of my request is about managing my personal data, and I realize there's a million different use cases for this information, so sometimes my ideas of hiding places not on maps is inconvenient, but always showing everything is also inconvenient. I'd like a good UI for planning a Trip, which contains various Maps, each Map has things (places, routes, etc) on it. A given place could be on multiple maps, and a given map could be on multiple trips (my "East Coast Route 1" trip would contain maps from my Maine trip, Mass trip, etc.. :) ) -- so I am trying to come up with ways to make all the management of my personal data more convenient... Here's the idea I originally had, although I'd guess it's too late to do this. My idea is basically "Here's a place, here's a list of tags/keywords for that place." Then the "maps" are auto-generated by taking every tag you use, and making a map out of it. So it's super easy to add a place to a variety of maps. So, I'd add a place, like "Jim's CheeseSteaks, South St., Philadelphia" - click search, type "food PA Philly sat sun" and it would create "Maps" with those names, or add this place to maps with those names already there. This basically replaces "maps" with a tag viewer, so I just add places to trips, and a trip has a list of keywords for places on that trip...

    1.d: A "Don't Show Unused Lists" option: I don't need to use my screen real estate on empty lists of Routes. Perhaps replace that list with a link "Add Routes to Trip," to clean up the interface? (This kinda leads into #2) (This could also just be "hide lists that don't have data" -- what's the need to have 4 empty lists for the RTA search results before I've even searched once? Pages are dynamic, just set the visibility of the lists to "hidden" until they have data?)

    2. General page improvements: I have a variety of thoughts to improve the usability of the page itself.
    2.a: I've read the instructions, I don't need a huge HTML page loaded all the time to remind me how to click a button. The page seems like it would be more usable if all the instructions were on a separate page linked, or little (?) icons which pop up instructions. Ideally, I wouldn't have a scrollbar at all when at a reasonable resolution on the page. (Possibly even have options to change what my expected resolution is, to make it fit?) -- I'd remove all the instructions. The "Click to add a place" instructions with a "Click Here" button could be completed replaced with a "Add Place" button, and a little (?) questionmark next to it to explain it, same with "Enter address: [ box ] <enter> Click Here: [FindOnMap Button]" - could just be "[ box ] [ Find Location ] (?)" on one line.

    2.b: Hide search features I don't use: I don't plan to use "Create Automatic Route" regularly, if ever. I'd rather my map be larger, or my list of custom places be larger, or to have less of a scroll bar, instead of having so many search features at the bottom. Lots of options to improve this: A pulldown of "Search Types" and when you select one, it hides the UI for the current one, and shows the newly selected one. Or little down arrows with titles for the search types, so I can show/hide them dynamically. Or an options page where I can choose to hide ones I do not want to see. Anything to provide more usable space, and less features a given person won't use taking up space.

    3: Other UI improvements: A variety of other quirks/issues with the UI:
    3.a: The "description" of notes loses carriage returns and doesn't process HTML - if there's a way to get formatting into the description, it should be included in the instructions (or a (?) link)), but if it's possible to just use pre-formatted text, so we can put returns in, that seems like the easiest/most user friendly option. But just appending my three paragraph description of something as extra sentences makes it very confusing to read.

    3.b: After I search for an address with "add a place approach #2", you put the address as the description. Is it possible to fill in the address fields with this information? (I haven't used Google's map API, but maybe they provide the parsed address information?)

    4: Misc. Feature Requests: Here's just a few things I'd hope to see in the near future, many of which might already be planned or requested?

    4.a: Icon selection, custom icons, etc: I like house-shaped icons for places I plan to sleep, hiking icons for places I plan to walk, cheeseburger icons for places I plan to eat, etc. Seeing 40 of the exact same icon doesn't make it easy for me to realize I'm in the middle of a food district, or to pick out the Factory Tour in the middle of a busy area.

    4.b: Have a trip-level (which I think we definitely need, the more I think about this) "default zoom" -- for instance, I'd have a PA trip, an ME trip, a CT trip, etc. When I load the PA trip, I'd like it to zoom to show the entire state of PA. Zooming into PA every time I go to the site is annoying, especially if I'm on the road and trying to find an address real quick. Auto-zooming to show a pre-set zoom/location when loading a given trip would be awesome. (or map, or even just a default) -- just a little button that says "Save As Default Map View" or something would be awesome.

    4.c: Basic "directions to/from this custom place" feature: If I'm on the road, at one of my custom places, and I'd like to see the suggested route to another place, it'd be most convenient to use your site to build a (temporary) route based on the places.

    Those are my thoughts/ideas so far. I'm not sure what level of development is going on, or what your plans are, or how much you guys are interested in using our feedback/implementing one person's ideas, so I guess I'll see how this goes (discussion/implementation wise), and move on from there.

    I think this tool looks really promising, and hope I can help it grow and put it to good use at the same time. :) Thanks!

    -xelepart
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 07-06-2011 at 12:56 PM. Reason: added some white space for easier reading

  2. #2
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    Default Calculate Route

    2.b: Hide search features I don't use: I don't plan to use "Create Automatic Route" regularly, if ever.
    Actually, you'll have to use it. That's the only way this program works. You can create custom routes where the path of the route (blue line) goes EXACTLY where you want it to go, but you'll still be using Automatic Route.

    There is a manually drawn route function -- known as "Hand Drawn Route" but it's used mostly for off-road travel, in that it works only in straight-line function, thus rendering it's use on any paved road, impractical.

    Thanks for all of your suggestion -- our design group will review and post comments here as we progress through them.

    Mark

  3. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Sedenquist View Post
    Actually, you'll have to use it. That's the only way this program works. You can create custom routes where the path of the route (blue line) goes EXACTLY where you want it to go, but you'll still be using Automatic Route.
    I don't plan to have routes at all, just places. My GPS or my passenger tell me where to go, we use road trip tools to manage places to go, not paths to get there. That's kinda my point though -- I'm bringing up new use cases or road trip planning approaches that may (or may not) fit into your general design, but you may not have considered in the design so far, or just not realized there'd be as much interest in that approach... I dunno, I'd just rather voice my ideas and hope they get implemented than sit in silence using a tool that isn't quite what I want. :)

    Thanks for reviewing them, and I look forward to the results from the design group review.

    -xelepart

  4. #4
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    Default A few first thoughts!

    Quote Originally Posted by xelepart View Post
    1. "Improved My Custom Places Management": I plan to have hundreds, or probably thousands, of entries under "My Custom Places" - many of them will fall onto only one or two of my probably 50-100 "My Maps" -- personally, I do not expect to ever have a "My Routes" or any of the other ideas listed there
    Actually, a list will begin to generate for "My Routes" because saving a route is the first step to building a map.
    On my test map, I have 15 entries in "My Custom Places" and three "My Maps" -- the custom places list seems like it will quickly become unusable and unwieldy with even a hundred entries, let alone a thousand.
    You don't have to keep them all. Just click on the icon, after you've read it, and it disappears. There is also a "Clear map" function.
    (I can think of a variety of ways to implement each goal, and I don't really see huge pros/cons to any of them):
    I like the idea of strategic goals -- we use similar tools elsewhere on the forum.
    1.a: Hide Old Maps. I want a map of every house I've ever lived in. I want a map of where I actually went on a road trip. I want maps to plan road trips. I want all my old road trips. But at any given time, I only want a couple maps to toggle on/off for my current activity. I should be able to hide old maps. (Archive maps, using a separate configuration page? Or perhaps have a higher level category "Trips" which have maps in them (like maps have places), and you can select one trip from a pulldown at a time, and the Maps list only populates with maps in that trip? (A map should be able to be in multiple trips if this is the case)...
    Good idea, it's on the development list.
    1.b: A "Hide Places Not On Map(s)" option. Right now, the "My Custom Places" list seems to show every place I've ever saved, on all maps, or even on no maps. While this helps you add them to new maps, it also makes the list nearly unusable most of the time. If I am viewing a map for my planned road trip, I want a nice concise list of places on that map, which I can use to access the information about those places. (I realize I can click the locations on the map, but I might only remember the name, and not where it is.) -- other options for lists of places, like sorting by name instead of number could be thrown in here too.
    Look at the keyword search tools -- there are several such options now.
    1.c: Basically, I feel like I naturally think of using a map like this as interacting with some set of data. There's RTA data, which you have search options for, and there's my personal data, which I need to manage. Most of my request is about managing my personal data, and I realize there's a million different use cases for this information, so sometimes my ideas of hiding places not on maps is inconvenient, but always showing everything is also inconvenient. I'd like a good UI for planning a Trip, which contains various Maps, each Map has things (places, routes, etc) on it. A given place could be on multiple maps, and a given map could be on multiple trips (my "East Coast Route 1" trip would contain maps from my Maine trip, Mass trip, etc.. :) ) -- so I am trying to come up with ways to make all the management of my personal data more convenient... Here's the idea I originally had, although I'd guess it's too late to do this. My idea is basically "Here's a place, here's a list of tags/keywords for that place." Then the "maps" are auto-generated by taking every tag you use, and making a map out of it. So it's super easy to add a place to a variety of maps. So, I'd add a place, like "Jim's CheeseSteaks, South St., Philadelphia" - click search, type "food PA Philly sat sun" and it would create "Maps" with those names, or add this place to maps with those names already there. This basically replaces "maps" with a tag viewer, so I just add places to trips, and a trip has a list of keywords for places on that trip...
    This is basically the technique used by RoadsideAmerica.com -- It's a philosophical difference -- and on the RoadsideAmerica site, you have to use their markers.. We sorta of do this with the Waypoints too.
    1.d: A "Don't Show Unused Lists" option: I don't need to use my screen real estate on empty lists of Routes. Perhaps replace that list with a link "Add Routes to Trip," to clean up the interface? (This kinda leads into #2) (This could also just be "hide lists that don't have data" -- what's the need to have 4 empty lists for the RTA search results before I've even searched once? Pages are dynamic, just set the visibility of the lists to "hidden" until they have data?)
    Hmmm maybe.

    The page seems like it would be more usable if all the instructions were on a separate page linked, or little (?) icons which pop up instructions.
    When logged in there are pop-up instructions for each new step.
    3: Other UI improvements: A variety of other quirks/issues with the UI:
    3.a: The "description" of notes loses carriage returns and doesn't process HTML - if there's a way to get formatting into the description, it should be included in the instructions (or a (?) link)), but if it's possible to just use pre-formatted text, so we can put returns in, that seems like the easiest/most user friendly option. But just appending my three paragraph description of something as extra sentences makes it very confusing to read.
    When we first launched, we were using "tiny mice" with full formatting. But now, we are keeping all page formatting out of the info boxes -- text only. HTML is not enabled in the description text fields but you can use html in the photos, links, etc.

    3.b: After I search for an address with "add a place approach #2", you put the address as the description. Is it possible to fill in the address fields with this information? (I haven't used Google's map API, but maybe they provide the parsed address information?)
    We do this now, just copy and paste it in (look at the top of the info window)

    4.a: Icon selection, custom icons, etc: I like house-shaped icons for places I plan to sleep, hiking icons for places I plan to walk, cheeseburger icons for places I plan to eat, etc. Seeing 40 of the exact same icon doesn't make it easy for me to realize I'm in the middle of a food district, or to pick out the Factory Tour in the middle of a busy area.
    Right now there are the custom icons only for the RTA Library -- eventually we'll add more icons for Custom places, but almost no one has requested this. You are the 3rd person since we launched that's asked for this.

    4.b: Have a trip-level (which I think we definitely need, the more I think about this) "default zoom" -- for instance, I'd have a PA trip, an ME trip, a CT trip, etc. When I load the PA trip, I'd like it to zoom to show the entire state of PA. Zooming into PA every time I go to the site is annoying, especially if I'm on the road and trying to find an address real quick. Auto-zooming to show a pre-set zoom/location when loading a given trip would be awesome. (or map, or even just a default) -- just a little button that says "Save As Default Map View" or something would be awesome.
    The default zoom is dynamically generated on the length of a saved route. But yeah, we can think about this for Custom Places. If you click on the map it does zoom in now.
    4.c: Basic "directions to/from this custom place" feature: If I'm on the road, at one of my custom places, and I'd like to see the suggested route to another place, it'd be most convenient to use your site to build a (temporary) route based on the places.
    I can guarantee we'll never offer this... I don't like those features and it's unlikely we'll EVER add this functionality.
    I think this tool looks really promising, and hope I can help it grow and put it to good use at the same time. :)
    Very cool, and we're pleased you're willing to help us grow this!

    Mark

  5. #5
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    Default Oh....... A Database Management Tool

    Quote Originally Posted by xelepart View Post
    I'm bringing up new use cases or road trip planning approaches that may (or may not) fit into your general design,
    OK, that's helpful, somehow I missed that as your focus. With your background, you probably could just download the Google Maps API and build your own application.

    The mapping application was created to answer this question (probably a version of this has been asked a couple of hundred thousand times over the last decade...)

    I'm starting in Pittsburgh, I've got three weeks, two kids, a dog and a hamster and I want to go to the Grand Canyon... Is there anything to see on the way? And how do I get there?

    So, our focus herein, is going to be on creating routes, maps, and other planning tools that our members can use on their own road trips.

    Your use is much more specific and we can improve these programs in ways that might make your user experience more enhanced, but our focus will remain on creating routes and maps.

    But this is a good dialogue and we'll see what happens in the weeks and months to come.

    Mark

  6. Default

    A few of your responses make me think I am either using a different page than you are, or I didn't describe myself very well.

    You said: "When logged in there are pop-up instructions for each new step." - however, I am currently logged in, I have my saved maps (which I created on another machine), and I am at http://www.roadtripamerica.com/maps/mapcenter.php - however, 80% of the page is static HTML instructions, and there are no popup instructions anywhere on the page. Am I at the wrong page? Is there an option I am missing to change the instructions?

    You said: "Look at the keyword search tools -- there are several such options now." and "You don't have to keep them all. Just click on the icon, after you've read it, and it disappears. There is also a "Clear map" function." -- I think I wasn't clear, I am talking about the list under "My Custom Places" on the left. It's a small listbox. It lists every custom place I have created, on any map, or even if they are not on any map. I am not talking about markers on the map itself. If I click a map, it puts the map's markers on, and I can "remove" them just fine, but the list on the left still lists them all. If I click "delete" on a Custom Place, it pops up a message saying "Permanently delete marker 'MyMarkerName' from the database? Any maps saved with this custom place marker will be incomplete." -- and if I say yes, it removes it from the listbox, and from all the maps that had it. What I am looking for is a way to manage that listbox on the left. If it has 3000 Custom Places in it, it's unmanageable, and I can't have custom places on any maps if they aren't in that list. So my "hide places not on map" comment and my "they stay forever" comment were related to that list, not the map itself.

    You have a few comments about routes as well that confuse me, but I guess that's 'cause I'm using the tool wrong. I have multiple maps with no routes at all, just places. So, you've mentioned that creating a route is the first step in creating a map, but I have created custom places, then saved a map, and I have a map with custom places and no routes.

    I guess my roadtrip planning question is distinct from yours -- the "Is htere anything to see on the way?" is one question I ask, but I ask it of your site, roadsideamerica, 50 books from the library, google, and a hundred other sites, and create a personal list of "here is the list of things I want to see on the way" -- then I am looking for tools to manage that list and determine (often dynamically, during the trip) a route to visit everything on that list, not just say "I am going to this specific place, find me options along the way" -- so perhaps you're right, what I need is just another tool. I am just hoping to find a tool that can provide what I need without writing it myself, 'cause that's a lot of work. :)

    You said "We do this now, just copy and paste it in (look at the top of the info window)" -- in response to me saying "you put it in the description, is it possible to fill in the fields?" -- I didn't mean is it possible for *me* to fill in the fields. I meant is it possible to automatically fill in the fields. I already typed the address, you've used Google Maps, which I assume parsed it, it seems odd to make me do four cut and pastes to put the information in fields you can probably already put it in? And if you're going to make me put it into the fields myself, why not start with separate fields, so I don't have to type it once then modify it after? Just have me type it into the fields... Seems like a clearly automatable task is being pushed onto the user unnecessarily, and if someone (like me) was adding hundreds of custom places, it'd get old fast. :)

    I'll keep an eye on how the RTA map tools advance, but it makes a decent amount of sense that the "Custom Places" is more of a side-note in your development (focused on your RTA database and routes, which I use differently, and can't use, respectively), while custom locations is the majority of what I'm interested in, so it's probably not a great fit. (Although it still might be the best fit, we'll see! :) )

    Thanks!

    -xelepart

  7. #7
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    Default 15,000+ Custom Places

    Quote Originally Posted by xelepart View Post
    Am I at the wrong page? Is there an option I am missing to change the instructions?
    The pop-up instructions are key-stroke specific, so as you enter certain fields the instructions will appear directly under the map image.
    What I am looking for is a way to manage that listbox on the left. If it has 3000 Custom Places in it, it's unmanageable, and I can't have custom places on any maps if they aren't in that list. So my "hide places not on map" comment and my "they stay forever" comment were related to that list, not the map itself.
    Yes, now I understand your comment, but it's unlikely that this RTA Custom Mapping application is really going to work that well for you, Which is why you really ought to download the Google Maps API and create exactly what you want. You're more than welcome to use the RTA Custom Maps application, but I don't think we'll be adding any management tools that will affect the Custom Places in the near future. I have a 142 custom places on my personal list -- but I don't use the application the way you'd like to.
    You have a few comments about routes as well that confuse me, but I guess that's 'cause I'm using the tool wrong. I have multiple maps with no routes at all, just places. So, you've mentioned that creating a route is the first step in creating a map, but I have created custom places, then saved a map, and I have a map with custom places and no routes.
    My comment was about using the RTA Library list of attractions -- but sure you can save maps with no routes....
    I am just hoping to find a tool that can provide what I need without writing it myself, 'cause that's a lot of work. :)
    Absolutely and very expensive to obtain. I could add up the thousands of hours we've invested in the RTA Custom Mapping application to date, but it'd probably scare me.... So, you're welcome to use the RTA tools to the extent that you can. Let us know if there's anything else you think of as you work with the applications.
    I meant is it possible to automatically fill in the fields.
    of course it's possible, but most people don't see interested in this function, so we remain focused on the things that people have requested up to now.

    I generally don't use addresses when I create a custom place, I'm usually using satellite images and then I use the "Find the Address" tool to put into the address fields. It takes about 4-5 seconds to copy/paste in the fields. Having personally checked each of the 1200 published RTA Library markers, i find it a pretty fast process. Like any other tool, this is going to take some practice before you start to notice ways to speed up what you're trying to do.
    Just have me type it into the fields...
    That's doable. But, again, sort of a lower priority for us. The other procedures are almost as fast.
    I'll keep an eye on how the RTA map tools advance, but it makes a decent amount of sense that the "Custom Places" is more of a side-note in your development
    Not really, there about 15,000 custom places in the database right now, and only 1200 in the RTA library. But most people make ~ 25 custom places one year, the next time they plan a trip, they'll make a few more and so forth. If we start seeing that members are generating 200-300 Custom Places and remaining active with the Maps, we'll fast-track some of the management tools development projects.

    Thanks again,

    Mark

  8. #8
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    Default How are things going?

    Quote Originally Posted by xelepart View Post
    I plan to have hundreds, or probably thousands, of entries under "My Custom Places"
    So, I see that you've made only eight markers, and your last one was a couple of weeks ago... Did you find another program you liked better?

  9. #9
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    Default Quite helpful

    Even though I do not understand all the lingo above, I think I understand the gist of this conversation. It has really helped me understand why I can not get the maps to do what I want them to do, and why I shy away from them. Maybe some of us come from a different mould and just don't fit into that little box.

    Lifey

  10. #10
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    Default What are you asking here

    Lifey,

    I'm sorry I have no idea what you're referring to here.

    What is your issue with the maps?

    Mark

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