About BMoy

Ph.D. Student, Environmental Health Sciences, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

Week 1: Site Review 2 – LA Times Crime Map

LA Times Crime Map

Evaluation of Technologies Used

The LA Times’ interactive crime map provides up-to-date crime information for a number of Los Angeles Neighborhoods.

The interactive map is powered by Leaflet, with the map data coming from Google.  The timeline located beneath the map is administered through the widget, “Simile”, which is also an open source database.

The use of Google Maps allows users to the familiarity of working with Google Maps, with the added benefit of interactive, temporal crime information.  Users can click on the specific abbreviations (noted above in the key), to view the location and extent of crime committed, which is a similar platform provided by Google Maps.

 The use of the timeline widget allows users to access temporal information regarding various crimes that have occurred within their desired neighborhood.  This is vastly different from general maps, which only provide you static information for that one period of time.

 User-interface Pros and Cons

Pros: Mentioned earlier, the LAT Crime Map provides the relative ease of use similar to Google Maps.  Users are able to zoom in on their specific neighborhood and view the specific locations of where the crimes had occurred.

Additionally, once a neighborhood has been selected, a blue line indicating that neighborhoods geographic location is provided for further clarity.

Blue lines outline the user's specified neighborhood

The timeline aspect provided below the map allows users to scroll through various time periods to view when specific crimes have occurred.  This is a considerable strength of the map, as it provides previous historical crime context to the users.

Another advantage from the map is that information is summarized by week at the bottom of the webpage.  This provides the number of violent crimes occurring for a specific week, the number of property crimes, and the number of crimes per 10,000 people.  At the bottom of the page provides a list of the most recent crimes committed, along with the location and specific date and time.

Summary of the specified week's crime occurances

Cons: The similarity of colors detailing the crimes are very similar and can be confusing to those who are unobservant or not paying attention to the key located above the map.  This also makes it difficult to understand the timeline located underneath the map, since only colors are provided without any wording – this could just be to indicate that incidents occurred, but otherwise provides no other information.

Note the lack of wording and difficulty in distinguishing crime incidents

Lastly, the location of the key at the very far bottom left corner of the map is not very obvious, considering the overwhelming colors presented on the map and the colors presented on the key.

 General Evaluation of What’s Good and Bad

Considering the map’s purpose in educating and identifying potential crimes and their locations, the LA Times’ Crime map is generally a useful tool to provide very basic information.  While it requires some knowledge of the specific area the user could be looking for, the map does provide good coverage of the Los Angeles region.

Further areas that could be improved upon could be that the map of Los Angeles is initially present when opening the link, rather than having a search bar or drop down list.  For those unfamiliar with the name of the geographic location they are looking for, this could be an issue and potential area of improvement for the group project.

Week 1: Site Review 1 – NYT Census Map

Evaluation of Technologies Used

The New York Times’ interactive map utilizes Adobe Flash Player to display population demographics according to census tracts, but is powered by Google and uses data from Google Maps.

The use of Adobe Flash allows users to actively engage with the map by scrolling over specific census tracts and viewing their specific characteristics.

Integrating Google Maps into the interactive maps allows users to actively search for specific locations, as well as the ability to zoom into various locations for greater specificity.

User-interface Pro’s and Con’s

Pros: As was mentioned previously, the user interface seems very intuitive to the average person utilizing the map, as it is reflective of Google Maps.  The ability to zoom, as well as input a specific address, zip-code, or city, allows the user to personalize their maps according to their specific preferences and overall interests.

Another benefit of the NYT’ interactive map allows the user to “View More Maps”, which provides a variety of different topics, ranging from “Income”, “Housing and Families”, and “Education”, in addition to the “Race and Ethnicity” map first encountered.  For each of these topics, there are various subtopics available for the user to choose, which provides detailed perspective regarding the user’s area of choice.

Cons: The deluge of colors and dots when first viewing this map can be somewhat daunting and overwhelming – this may confuse users first observing the map.

Another potential con could be that users may only think that the map encompasses the New York City region, as the first perspective of the map when clicking the link is zoomed up specifically around NYC.   Only after manipulating and utilizing the interface area you able to recognize that there is more available to the map than just that location.

Lastly, the location of the key at the very far bottom left corner of the map is not very obvious, considering the overwhelming colors presented on the map and the colors presented on the key.

General Evaluation of What is Good and Bad

Overall, the map’s breadth of information, ability to search, and clarity of information (once the user has adapted to the visual information) makes the NYT’ interactive map very useful.  The additional coverage at which the information is provided (the entire United States) is quite impressive and can be an excellent resource for those most interested in finding information about their specific tract.

Potential problems could be the presentation of the information, such that it is less overwhelming.  Additionally, the information provided, while useful when considering census tract, can also be a potential limitation.  As census tracks sometimes do not encompass specific neighborhoods in their entirety, it may be difficult for users needing specific neighborhood or other various levels to transpose census tracks into the area they need.

Overall, the map still provides a wealth of information and is a great resource to use.