Google Earth: Tours User Testing

Earlier this year I did some user testing on Tours in Google Earth investigating my thoughts on best practices for producing tours in a more detailed fashion. Volunteers watched simple tours which flew them from one placemark to another via a variety of paths. The placemarks were then switched off and, from a high view, users were asked to identify where the markers were.

Preliminary results show some interesting outcomes that should be bourne in mind when producing Google Earth Tours (GETs):

Speed: Double click a placemark in Google Earth and you will be flown into a closer view at the default speed. We flew students around at that speed, twice as fast and half as slow but to little effect, students across the 3 speeds performed similarly whatever speed was used.
I’ve often worried that I’m flying students too fast for them to follow where they’re flying from or to within a GET. It seems for simple paths, students can be flown surprisingly fast and still follow what’s happening.
Overview: The paths used flew students from placemark to placemark at a high altitude with both placemarks clearly in view at the same time and also along the same route but at a lower altitude without being able to see both placemarks at the same time. Not having an overview dramatic reduced students abilities to recall placemark locations.
In terms of best practices this leads us to suggest that unless you have good reason not to, virtual flight segments within a GET should always include a mid point overview showing both placemarks in view if this does not naturally occur.
Distance vs Direction: Students proved good at tracking the direction they were following but were less good at guessing the overall distance between placemarks. Evidence for this is less clear but it may be worthwhile reminding students of scale when they are at overview points so they can get a sense of overall distances between map elements.

(Cross-posted from google earth design)

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