What is it?
The Peep Zoom is an alternative means of defining an area to where a map user would like to zoom. The user clicks an area, swipes our a radius, then zooms to that extent. That’s all -no big deal.
Rectangle selection is nothing new. It makes multiple selection in a tabular interface a breeze. And it did not take long for the designers of interactive maps to port that experience over to navigation. But that rectangular input method isn’t necessarily ideal.
The Peep zoom behaves more like a radial selection where the user defines a circle that grows equally from the center coordinate, a more intuitive means of defining a geographic area for the purposes of zooming. A centered radius input method more closely fits with the overall workflow of geographic navigation because the user 1) identifies a point of interest and 2) defines a new extent (a.k.a. zoom level) centered around that point.
This frees users from the slightly unnatural (though admittedly familiar) task of first imagining a new bounding box within the current map view, choosing some geographic corner location, and dragging a rectangle to a destination corner with the goal of trying to approximate the area of interest within the center of the rectangle. Whew.
Also it is, so far, impossible for me not to start whistling the Looney Tunes closer when I use it.
A ridiculous little video that illustrates the Peep Zoom in an unreleased version of our Silverlight VE map demo.
What’s the Deal?
The Peep Zoom did not arrive out of any bright idea, but we stumbled on it, liked it, then refined it. Then we rationalized it (above). Here’s the lowdown: when we added rectangle (lasso) zooming to our Silverlight VE Map demo, the rotation feature also happened to rotate the lasso rectangle. Whoops. So we jokingly thought about making the rectangle a circle instead so you would not know it was rotated. Then we thought that it might actually be pretty cool. After that we centered the circle around the origin click as a radius and life as we know it got a little bit better.
Flexible Development Environment
The Peep Zoom is a tiny feature but it is fun and new and, I would argue, better than the alternative(s). The value of a flexible environment is that when a serendipitous blip occurs, and if it has legs, folks can run with them (or at least bubble it up to stakeholders). Plus it makes the work day a lot more interesting. For a supreme example of a flexible environment where serendipity was embraced and run with, check out the story behind Flickr…