Quite a few examples in the cartographic and information visualisation literature suggest that multi-component animated maps may be appropriate for examining complex spatio-temporal phenomena. Such space–time visualizations typically consist of multiple dynamic map or data windows, linked by means of interactive tools. Little empirical evidence exists, however, providing support of the potential advantages of such complex visual space–time displays. This research aimed at filling this gap.
An empirical study was carried out to obtain insight on how multi-component animated maps are used to explore dynamic spatio-temporal phenomena. We examined which particular components attract users’ attention and in what sequence, and whether display effectiveness can be characterized by users’ viewing behaviours. Based on behavioural data collected with the eye-tracking method, we find that component size, and employed dynamic variables attracted users’ attention most. We are also able to identify visual behaviour patterns that result in performance differences between participants, using
multi-component animated map. Finally, we highlight component layout design issues that should be further examined empirically, in order to reduce potential split attention effects.