Using eye-tracking and mouse metrics to test usability of web mapping navigation

Steven M. Manson, Len Kne, Kevin R. Dyke, Jerry Shannon, Sami Eria

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


The growth of web-based mapping is transforming geovisualization. Use of web mapping has become ubiquitous throughout much of the world and has sparked greater public interest in GIS and mapping. Despite the rapid growth of web mapping, there has been relatively little study of the design and usability of web maps. Moreover, the design and function of popular web mapping programs are sometimes at odds with standard GIS and cartographic practices for even the simplest of functions such as zooming into a feature of interest. This study advances understanding of web mapping design via web usability testing based on mouse metrics and eye tracking technology to assess the utility of four different web map navigation schemes: pan zoom; double clicking; zoom by rectangle; and wheel zoom. We found significant differences among the various interfaces, with marked preference for the standard GIS approach of rectangle zoom, followed closely by wheel zoom. Far fewer users preferred the web mapping standard of pan zoom or click zoom. In addition to finding significant differences in usability among these approaches, this work illustrates the broader utility of usability testing and eye tracking technology for creating a better web mapping experience for users.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)48-60
Number of pages13
JournalCartography and Geographic Information Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work is supported in part by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration New Investigator Program in Earth-Sun System Science (NNX06AE85G), the University of Minnesota’s College of Liberal Arts, and the Resident Fellowship program of the Institute on the Environment. The authors gratefully acknowl- edge the assistance of the editor and anonymous reviewers. Responsibility for the opinions expressed herein is solely that of the authors.


  • Eye tracking
  • Geographic information science
  • Usability
  • Web mapping


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