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I was told having a Identify Tool is a bad practice in most web applications. Can anyone explain why or point me to a resource that explains why having a Identify Tool is considered bad design in a web application? If every feature you click on brings up a pop-up that could probably get annoying as well. Seems like an identify tool could help prevent these potentially annoying pop-ups.

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Who told you it was a bad idea? – Nathan W Apr 3 '13 at 23:12
Not sure this is a GIS question? The majority of online GIS style applications (even Google Maps) have this kind of functionality when querying points etc. – Andrew Tice Apr 3 '13 at 23:23
It might be better here – Nathan W Apr 3 '13 at 23:29
@NathanW Some co-workers have, they say it's too close to trying to bring desktop GIS to a web application. I didn't think this question fit very well in the UX forum since the Identify tool is much more of a GIS tool. – wilbev Apr 3 '13 at 23:54
@NathanW Usually I'm not inclined to say spatial is special, but the UX really does make it different. More than once I've seen a kid touching a globe and looking out the window for a finger in the sky. Not many apps besides GIS can say you are here. After watching Amber Case's Location and the Future of the Interface presentation, and seeing public interest in Google glass, I think the map-territory relation is more relevant to GIS than other UX. – Kirk Kuykendall Apr 4 '13 at 4:30
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Most desktop GIS applications have an "identify tool", or icon, that you click before you can click on features on the map. It also, usually, allows you to specify which layers should be identifiable. It usually shows this data in a generic field-value table. This can be useful in a generic application for analysts that are familiar with the data.

None of the main online GIS styled mapping web sites have this functionality (not Google Maps, Bing Maps, MapQuest, Yahoo Maps, ArcGIS Online etc).

This is in contrast to a web mapping application where you just click on something and it displays nicely formatted content. The application developer has taken the time to both decide which layers/features should be clickable in this specific application, as well as set up a nicely formatted popup that might show the data in a chart, or something else that turns the data fields into useful "information". Each web mapping application in this scenario tend to have been created for a specific use case.

Obviously, this is exaggerating the difference between these two different options, but I think it gives you some background to why some of us say that "Identify Tool is a bad practice in most web applications".

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