Geolocation apps require context, mobility: Web designer

Geolocation still in early stages of development despite rise in popularity

Geolocation-based mobile applications are convenient, but require context to be understood by their patrons, a Canberra-based web designer has warned.

“Geolocation gives us the opportunity to simplify concepts for our users,” IceLab designer, Max Wheeler, told attendees at the Web Directions South 2010 conference in Sydney last week. “The problem with it is... we don’t interpret the world through latitude and longitude. We need a way of connecting civic stuff to geolocation stuff."

Javascript and HTML5 remain Wheeler's modes of choice for developing mobile applications, and were used heavily in the creation of coffee review website, Decaf Sucks. However, he warned that in-browser maps posed a danger for presenting map information in an understandable way to users.

“I don’t like using in-browser map applications because it’s not fun to use," he said. "Remember what the user is trying to understand.”

Although Wheeler believes the support for geolocation is adequate, he said the use of such map coordinates would not make sense to non-developers without HTML5. The need to download maps on the fly on mobiles - rather than using local data - also posed potential problems for ease of use.

“One thing that comes to mind when people think about building a location-based interface is maps,” he said. “The problem with maps is that when you’re a mobile user, you have to download the full stack of Google Maps and this isn’t the best idea.

“You have to take into account that if a user doesn’t have 3G, it’s very very slow.

Decaf Sucks allows users to rate and review the coffee and environment at cafés around the world. Created almost entirely in HTML5, Wheeler said the website was created with mobility at its core to serve its young target demographic.

Wheeler’s insights come as Melbourne-based designer, Ben Schwarz, warned that the HTML5 Web development specification needed to be simplified in order to foster adoption across the industry.

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