3-Dimensional (3D)


What Problem Does This Solve?

Two dimensional (aka planar, 2D, overhead, flat) maps require high level of geographic literacy to be interpreted well and are missing the altitude dimension.

When to Use This Pattern

Use 3D view to illustrate a more naturalistic picture of complex landscapes or when the third dimension is an important factor. 3D maps are especially useful in situations when users need to quickly orient themselves, virtual tours, make rough estimates based on general information displayed, landscape planning, or where appeal is important, e.g. tourism or real estate.

What’s the Solution?

Provide a means to toggle the map to 3D view. Decide on the desired level of detail to display (see-through wireframe representations, blocks and shapes, textured models) depending on available data, users and their needs.

Why Use This Pattern?

3D maps have a higher positive appeal due to their realistic representation of the surroundings. This helps users to more quickly orient themselves and find objects of interest.

Special Considerations

  • The most obvious disadvantage is that 3D objects like buildings, landscape, or extruded objects can conceal other objects.
  • Another disadvantage is that perspective will distort objects and while to the viewer they look more realistic it becomes more difficult to estimate correct sizes and lengths.
  • Other challenges include navigation that is not familiar to most people and editing or placing objects in 3D space.


Immerse in a photo-realistic city environment
Immerse in a photo-realistic city environment
See satellites orbiting earth
See satellites orbiting earth

Leave a Reply