The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis


Dr Max Roberts | Experimental information design

06 February 2019, 5:00 pm–6:00 pm

Experimental information design: what can we learn about schematic mapping from usability testing?

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Dr Ana Basiri


Room G03
85: 26 Bedford Way
26 Bedford Way
United Kingdom

Urban rail maps are frequently mapped using schematisation techniques, such are scale distortion and line trajectory simplification, but the diverse results worldwide indicate that designers are creating these on the basis of intuitions about effective design, rather than attempts to make evidence-based decisions. A growing body of research is beginning to supply findings that may guide designers, and highlights of these include:

1) Differences in usability can be identified on the basis of global and local aspects of design.
2) Differences in configuration can influence journey choices.
3) The correlation between objective measures of usability and subjective ratings is zero.
4) People who might be expected to posess expertise relevant to assessing map usability are indistinguishable in their judgements from others.

The lack of correlation between objective measures versus subjective ratings is not unprecedented in psychology, and is explicable on the basis of the fallibility of human metacognition. Nonetheless this dissociation requires further investigastion because (1) it might imply that straightforward assessments of usability derived from time and error data are at odds with alternative conceptualisations of usability, that may be more firmly connected with real-world utility and (2) maps must now compete with journey-planning apps, so that designs that are more likely to engage users and encourage their use are desirable.

About the Speaker

Dr Max Roberts

at University of Essex

Maxwell Roberts completed a BSc (1988) and PhD (1991) in psychology at the University of Nottingham, UK, and he has lectured at the Psychology Department at the University of Essex since 1993. His research interests include human  inference and intelligence, but now focus on information design and, in particular, schematic maps. His research into usability and aesthetics investigates official designs and prototypes, and also his own challenging versions. He has authored two books on maps, and published academic papers in the International Journal of Human Computer Studies, Information Design Journal, and Transportation Research. Designs have been exhibited in Germany, Austria, the USA, and the UK. His web page is www.tubemapcentral.com.