Site Design and Workflow

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This page is an attempt to bring order to the many pages which concern themselves with issues of OSM Site Design, Workflow and Usability. The risk is that this will become just one other page, but the intention is to summarise and link to all relevant material such that this page can become a one-stop reference for these matters.

Site Design

This section will deal with proposals related to the appearance and layout of the OSM web site, particularly the Front Page. Site design affects the intelligibility of our message, particularly when new users see the site for the first time. Proposals of this nature should be based on articulated objectives of what information the site wishes to impart to its visitors.

Front Page Design

Most content on this page has been struck out, but it remains a key document concerning proposed changes to the front page. Much of the struck out content is more typical of a wiki talk page.

It captures:

  • Opinions on whether a redesign is required
  • Opinions on what is good about the current design
  • Crude requirements for what a revised Front Page should contain
  • Some thoughts on SEO measures

This document also contains a number of mock-up front pages (reflecting a variety of proposals), highlights of which include:

  • The option of including an additional horizontal bar between tabs and map, mostly serving to raise the prominence of the search form, but also providing a home for certain other features.
  • Post-it-style notes, apparently intended to convey important concepts to newcomers.
  • A Map Key that can appear in a right-hand sidebar
  • Latest News in the left sidebar
  • A full-width map placing all non-map content in a narrow strip at the top of page
  • A more visible layer-switcher than the existing blue plus sign
  • The option of removing top-of-page tabs in favour of buttons in the left margin
  • Left margin buttons some of which point right to the map area
  • A layout giving over much of the bottom half of the window to visualisations of different rendering styles
  • More prominence given to the statement of what OSM is and why readers should contribute
  • Movement of most left margin links and widgets to the right margin
  • A layout where no map is shown at all, but instead a three-way choice between maps, geodata and contribute
  • Various ideas for use of transparency

Many specific proposals were included in reader comments. Some of the more strategic ones:

  • Ensuring prominence of the search field (some misgivings expressed, but these may reflect infrastructural difficulties now resolved)
  • Taking care to use plain language accessible to a user skilled in neither mapping nor Internet technology (naming of Permalink is an example)
  • Tackling the fact that not all tabs are as important as the others (snag: opinions differ on which ones are less important)
  • Exploiting user familiarity with common layouts such as Wikipedia. This is seen not just as a usability win but also as a statement of intent of what kind of project we wish to be.
  • Pursuing SEO to ensure that our project is found by people likely to participate. This means not just ranking highly as a map, but also as geodata.

Workflow and Usability

Workflow covers the user journey involved in performing any necessary task using OSM tools. May cover the adequacy of existing workflows, but many of the ideas are proposals for tools or workflows not yet implemented.

Usability relates to any discussions or proposals that consider the suitability of a part of the OSM infrastructure for its intended users - having regard to the challenges that arise when those users are diverse. There is much crossover between this and Site Design, but if different sections are to be preserved the following demarcation may be useful:

  • Site Design: Affects whether a user understands what we are telling him and what he can do with our site/tool
  • Workflow & Usability: Affects how successfully a user can accomplish a task he knows or expects to be possible

My Account Pages

  • Main page contains some comments about the My Account page - most of those have been implemented already.
  • My_Account/Improvements page contains more ideas on how to improve the account management pages and overall functionality/usability of this area.

Web Front End

Not an improvement proposal page, but an attempt to identify those features/workflows already present in the Rails Port. Groups the features into the following top-level categories:

  • Front Page Map
  • Data Layer
  • Data Browser (with note about the SEO value of the content, if it were technically feasible to allow crawling)
  • User Diaries
  • User Messaging
  • Friends
  • Roles of Administrators and Moderators

Quick and dirty usability testing of OSM

A report by Gravitystorm based on his observations of new mappers at a UCL Mapping Party. It's a non-exhaustive but illuminating view of some of the workflow issues that can arise for new users along with some suggestions for improvement. Includes the observation that many new users just click the PD box without reading what it is for.

User Experience

A largely blue-sky page describing proposed workflows to achieve certain goals. Mostly consists of headings and is geared mainly at idea capture. No analysis or prioritisation of proposals.

User Experience Working Group

A short proposal to create a User Experience Working Group within the OSM Foundation. Includes proposed mission statement.

Improving OpenStreetMap Page

  • General discussion about contributing to the Rails Port; technical and organizational issues are mentioned.
  • Also included are some specific actions to take.

Next Editor Page

  • Technical and functional discussion of a basic easy to use editor for OSM data.


  • Breaks down OSM users in terms of "personas" - audience with different goals and approaches to mapping.

Specific Wishlist items

Any changes proposed which are considered obviously beneficial, feasible to implement quickly and not requiring detailed analysis.

Minor web front end UI Fixups

A list of specific changes proposed by Gravitystorm, most of which are struck off as having been implemented. Outstanding items:

  • Diary entries currently contain a link to the user page of the author but not directly to the rest of his/her diary
  • History pages have area links expressed in lat and long, which are not easily intelligible
  • Home - should be set and retrieved with a zoom level