Mobile devices are intuitive, easy to use, hands-on (literally), and just plain fun. They offer new levels of search by location, including GPS. And that cannot easily be offered within a desktop-based system; I sure wouldn’t want to tote my i5 to my favorite coffeeshop!

That being said, using fingers to map search on a touch-screen mobile device can be a bit tricky, considering these factors:

  • large fingers
  • poor dexterity
  • arthritis
  • broken bones — try to move your fingers around in a cast!

Let me show you an example of what I am referring to: In Uptown Minneapolis, Cafe French Meadow and Common Roots Cafe are located very close together on Google Maps.

Google Maps screenshot: Uptown Minneapolis, 26th & Lyndale

Point your finger at this image. Feel confident that you will be able to select Common Roots without potentially selecting French Meadow?

Wouldn’t an on-screen tool offering a more precise selection be helpful? I propose a precision-select map search joystick, the precision being derived from a 1-2 pixel area pointer… a polished version of the mockup below.

Map Search Joystick Demo with Finger Pointing

In this instance, the user desires to move the pointer up and left. It would move at a smooth, steady pace. Zoom in and out buttons are large and apparent, as is the location selection button.

And this is just the start of an idea. Imagine the potential functions, the iterations, the improvements. Touchscreen joysticks like this are actually already in use, as are removable stick-on joysticks (also here), but I am simply proposing that they be utilized within map search for those who find touch search too tough to tackle.

Keep in mind, mobile gaming has already proven and is actively demonstrating touch-based interactive ingenuity. Anyone up for a game of Angry Birds?

Hope you liked the idea!