Using SVG-based Maps for Mobile Guide Systems
A Case Study for the Design, Adaptation, and Usage of SVG-based Maps for Mobile Nature Guide Applications

Clemens Düpmeier, Peter Freckmann, Vilma Patalaviciute, Markus Ruchter

The usage of maps for location-based mobile services is state of the art. Especially for mobile guide applications, maps are a central and crucial functionality to inform the users about their current location, points of interest nearby, and routes they can choose. Beyond the use of maps for navigation purposes, they can serve as a user interface in mobile guide systems. In order to make the use of maps more attractive and intuitive for non-professional users, it is essential to offer a high level of graphical quality and usability. This implies the adaptation of maps to the user context as well as the compensation for the limitations of mobile devices. Furthermore, to reach a large target group with mobile guide applications, the used maps should be adaptable to different subtarget groups (like children, teens, or adults) in both design and interaction behaviour. SVG as an XML-based vector graphic format is a suitable solution to achieve these goals, because SVG-based maps can be transformed and modified easily, differently styled, or scaled without losing graphic quality. Scripting as well as animation elements allow for the integration of a high level of interactivity in the maps.

A lot of work has already been done in the design of mobile guide systems for city tours and museums, including the use of SVG-based maps to facilitate navigation. However, there have only been a few guide systems to assist the user in visiting natural areas so far. This paper presents an approach to the design of SVG-based maps for mobile nature guide applications. Apart from the presentation of pure factual information, these maps are also intended to enhance the environmental awareness of users. This goal results in several requirements on the design and functionality of maps, for example, a high adaptability of the maps to different target groups and their context of use in natural settings, including e.g. the season of the year, light and weather conditions, the presence of typical plants and animals.

This paper will further evaluate the usability of the SVG technology in terms of the design, visualization, and interaction possibilities as well as the adaptability of SVG-based maps to the nature guide application. A number of guidelines and concepts for using highly adaptable SVG-based maps in such systems shall be presented. The evaluation was conducted during a concrete case study, in the framework of which maps were created for the description of nature experience areas in the MobiNaG application (Mobile Nature Guide). MobiNaG is a mobile guide application for the pocket PC, which is being developed under a joint project with the Naturschutzzentrum Rappenwört, an environmental education institution in Karlsruhe, Germany [1]. MobiNaG allows for the generation of guide systems for different nature experience areas with each having its own set of SVG-based maps, including points of interest, routes, and guided tours. The MobiNaG software uses an SVG engine to present and dynamically adapt the maps to the current context of the user, for example, to show the user's location based on GPS data or display context-based information on natural phenomena. It will be pointed out that the combination of SVG technology and XML for data description in general is adequate to present adaptive maps to different target groups and context situations.


[1] Düpmeier, C.; Ruchter, M.: User interface architecture of a mobile guide for exploring the wild. 6th Internat. Conf. on Human Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services, Glasgow, GB, September 13-16, 2004