The influence of hiking trail map representation on route selection
Authors: Pei Tsen Lai, Ching I Chen, Meng-Cong Zheng
Abstract: In the past two years, more people in Taiwan have been engaging in hiking activities because of the epidemic restriction on leaving the country. However, the number of accidents has risen, mostly among inexperienced hikers. Because they are unfamiliar with the mountain terrain, they tend to make wrong route decisions. So this study examines hikers' interpretation of hiking trail guide maps and the risk perception of route information in them. This study evaluated the user's thoughts and feelings, information interpretation, and risk perception of existing hiking trail map information. The experiment was conducted online by 30 participants, half males, and half females, and half were of high and low hiking experience. The evaluation was performed as follows: 1) A pre-test questionnaire was administered to investigate the attentional ranking of information on the hiking trail map. 2) Participants were asked to complete three situational tasks on the map and fill out a 9-point Likert scale of risk perception, performance satisfaction, and a NASA-TLX scale. 3) Each participant was asked to complete three maps, and the maps were randomly assigned to respond. 4) A semi-structured interview was conducted, and the top three most helpful information on route perception of risk was ranked. Combining the results of the three maps, both high and low-experienced participants felt that direct text road signs (e.g., danger, cliff) gave the best sense of route risk. The second place was the slope map. Participants indicated that the slope map provides an intuitive view of the route, especially in emergencies, and that the ups and downs of the route are essential points to consider in their route selection decisions. In the Yangmingshan National Park map task, most people revised their route decisions. Low-experienced hikers felt that there needed to be more information on a slope to compare routes, making it more challenging to make decisions. Highly experienced people can identify the terrain directly through the contour map. However, the map had much textual information, and the contour lines were too dense, which made it difficult to interpret the terrain of some routes. In the question of risk perception, we found that most of the perception scores given by with high experience people were higher than those offered by less experienced people. That means that more experienced people pay more attention to the risks presented by each piece of information and increase their sensitivity to crises. Finally, the overall evaluation showed that road signs and slope maps were essential information for risk perception. This study will optimize and improve both information items to help hikers perceive route patterns more accurately and improve their risk perception.
Keywords: hiking trail map, map design, information design, risk perception
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