What Problem Does This Solve?
Assist the user to find the needle in the haystack of data and communicate the center of interest or activity of a task.
When to Use This Pattern
Use to answer a particular question or focus the user on an area on the map that is relevant to the task.
What’s the Solution?
Visually emphasize a feature on the map to draw the user’s attention to. This feature is typically a point (city, landmark), line (river, highway) or polygon (state, country) well known and recognizable to the user. It might be the result of a prior task, like a search or selection.
Why Use This Pattern?
A map has very few ways to communicate with the user. There is nothing natural, special or relevant in a default map unless it is being highlighted.
In game theory a focal point is also called Schelling point after a concept introduced by the American economist Thomas Schelling where a participant will try to find and name the most salient and notable feature in order to match what another randomly chosen participant has chosen too so that both win the price. In absence of any communication between the two of them and without outside help certain “natural, special, or otherwise relevant” focus points are chosen.
By highlighting a feature the application/map takes out this guessing game and relieves its users of figuring it out for themselves.
Create focal points through colors of high contrast and/or by masking out irrelevant features. Other techniques include adding drop shadows, glowing edges or animation effects.