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Keep it simple

By [email protected] - 22nd May 2015 - 14:04

Over time, specialist business activities or technologies become mainstream. If they donât, they either stay in their niche, supported by a slowly diminishing band of zealots (are you reading this on your Blackberry?), or disappear altogether. Either way they donât change the world. â©

The worldâs greatest guitarist, Jimi Hendrix, said: âTo change the world, you have to get your head together first.â Putting the irony of the juxtaposition of the speakerâs life and his weighty words aside, he was right and I am delighted to see that certain parts of the geospatial industry are starting to get their heads together. â©

Mainstream means âshared by most people or regarded as normal or conventionalâ. It is normal for people to use their mobile phones every 14 seconds. Checking emails, sending texts, buying hamster houses, checking into someoneâs spare room, getting someone to come and pick you up even if they donât have a taxi sign on the roof of their car â all these things are possible on mobile phones. They are mainstream activities.â©

And yet only a tiny minority of users know how their mobile phones work. Or how an app is created. Or how an app works on a mobile phone. But the successful suppliers of both phones and apps know a crucial piece of information that has bypassed many in the geospatial world â their users simply donât care. â©

No one cares how the engine of their car works. Honestly, do you know what a double overhead camshaft does? Or what a camshaft is? Or where in an engine you would find a camshaft? Have I even made up the word âcamshaftâ? â©

What the car does for the driver and passengers is what decides purchases. Does it hold five kids and wonât breakdown on the way back from swimming? Will it show the rest of the world just how successful the owner is? â©

The geospatial industry has rarely learnt this painful lesson: no one cares what you do, they only care what you can do for them. â©

Google became a verb for a reason. No one, other than a few people who will never get on the same plane together, understands how the Google search algorithm works and yet how many times a day do you hear âIâll Google thatâ? â©

It isnât the impressiveness of the technology of the app, the preciseness of the engineering of the engine or the remarkable thinking that goes into providing online users with the information they want that makes these products successful. Users just donât care âhowâ their products work, only that they are easily accessible and simple to use and provide useful outcomes. â©

For too long, geospatial companies have been overly impressed by what their products do and have been obsessed with telling people about it. In minute detail.â©

But now I see signs that certain people are getting their âheads togetherâ, that they understand that for mapping to be mainstream, all the highbrow technical stuff needs to be hidden. Not talked about. Not listed. Show people that your mapping is simple to use, easy to access and what it can do for them, and they will use it. â©

Need to get from your house to Great Aunt Maudeâs who you see once every two years? You use the in-car navigation system â you donât care how the GPS signal gets to and from your car or how the system knows where Auntie lives just by telling it her postcode.â©

Want to know how long your interminable flight sat next to the heavyweight red cabbage-eating champion will last? Watch the inflight moving map. It is in the cabin for a reason â itâs very popular. â©

These are mainstream uses of mapping but there should be so many more. One of the reasons there arenât is that the design of the user experience and the presentation of geospatial products are rarely given the money or time that they need. â©

The geospatial companies that value these business disciplines as highly as the technical development of products will be the ones that forge new marketplaces and find themselves in the mainstream. â©

Show people that your mapping is simple to use, easy to access and what it can do for them, and they will use itâ©

Alistair Maclenan is founder of the geospatial B2B marketing agency Quarry One Eleven (

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