After I reconnected with Ilya at SOTM and talked to him about his new app Every Door, I thought it would be nice to organize a mapping party around it back home. I just got back from some Mall Mapping with a small OSM Utah group, and wanted to share my experiences with the app.
First things first, the app works great. The fact that it’s on Android and iOS and looks and works the same on both platforms is great. The interface is snappy, there’s no annoying crashes or delays, and everything is fairly easy to discover and learn how to use.(However, this is coming from a group of people who have experience with OSM mapping and are at least a little savvy about technology..)
There were two interface elements that took us a little time to figure out. One was the “modes” at the bottom. The default mode is POIs (the coffee cup icon). It is not immediately clear what the other modes do, but for people with some experience with OSM, you can figure it out in a few minutes.
The other element that we didn’t immediately “get” was the opening hours editor. When you open it up, it shows you a seemingly random set of hours that you can set as the time the shop opens. We struggled with how to enter a different time. There is an icon to enter a custom time but it is quite small. Once we got it, entering opening hours with it was actually very efficient!
Indoor specific challenges
We were mapping in a big indoor mall. This poses a number challenges that affect how well the app works.
Number one is the poor GPS signal indoors. This means that your location on the map in the app drifts quite a bit. Because the app re-sorts the POIs in view based on how far away from them you are, the same POI will be in a different place in the list every time you look, even if you didn’t move. You can temporarily disable the map from following your location by manually dragging it a little bit, but when you tell it to re-center on your location, the changing ordering of the POIs is a little confusing as the GPS keeps changing its mind about where you are.
Secondly, it can be hard to orient yourself in relation to the basemap when you’re indoors, especially if there are not very many places mapped yet and the basemap doesnt’ give you a lot to go on. I think it may be helpful to be able to switch the map to orient to your compass direction as an alternative to the default north-oriented map view. Alternatively, the location symbol could give a direction hint.
Lastly, the aerial imagery is useless indoors, but that is hardly the app’s fault :) Fortunately you can switch to an OSM map background as well.
Malls have lots of shops. Some of them are absolutely huge, but there are many, many small shops. There are a few times when I wished I could zoom in even further to be able to place the POI nodes more precisely, and to distinguish the existing ones. Ilya mentioned to me (and I think in his SOTM talk as well) that the map is not the point and he deliberately made it a small part of the UI, but there were a few times where I wished that I could get everything out of the way and just see the map for a moment.
The app requires you to manually upload to OSM by tapping the upload button. Once you have done that, you can download the latest from OSM again. In the meantime, you have a local copy of OSM POIs on your device. That is fine if you are by yourself, but if you are mapping in the same location with a group, this can lead to conflicts when uploading changes. We didn’t run into this because we were a small group, but I think this could be an issue. I would like to see uploads be automatic after every edit that you make. If the app would do an immediate upload and then also a download, you could be certain that everyone in your party always have the latest data and you don’t run into conflicts if you both end up editing the same POI.
I played around a little bit with the “tree” mode (I don’t know what the real name is, I just call it tree mode because that is what the icon is..). It lets you freely add and edit any type of point feature, not focused on POIs alone. I used it to add some benches, trash cans and some taxi stands as well. It works well for that purpose and I think I may use GoMap!! a little bit less for that specific type of mapping, where you just want to add or edit a node feature.. (GoMap!! is still great for all kinds of mapping on the go, including POI, and the two can exist side by side happily.)
We had a lot of fun mapping with Every Door, and I think we were more productive adding and updating POIs than we could have been with any other app! There’s lots of little things that make your life easier. I didn’t write down every single thing I thought about while using the app, but I think I captured the most important findings we had.
I will keep using Every Door for sure. We didn’t even get to do the entire mall so we should probably go back next month :) And more malls to go. I would encourage anyone who likes to get out and survey to try it!! Huge thanks to Ilya for making Every Door available to the community.