That web map looks great! Wish I could make one…
In some ways, there has maybe not been a better time to be involved in the geospatial and cartographic industry, whether as a profession or as hobby/passing interest. While ‘static’ maps and images of geographical information and data visualisation are still very relevant and useful, the rise of the interactive web map is an increasingly trend which is hitting the ‘mainstream’ more and more, whether it be through maps in current affairs like election maps, or through games or social media (e.g. Pokemon Go! and SnapMap). Therefore, the ability for cartographers and geospatialists to have at least some knowledge of how to make web maps themselves is, while not critical, of increasing importance and usefulness.
CARTO – Location Insights
Before taking this journey (yes it’s journey and an ongoing one as well), I would ask two things – one, do I need a web map for this? i.e. What can an interactive web map provide that a static (non-interactive) map can’t and do I need this? Two, and more relevant for this article – how much about web development/mapping do I want or need to learn? i.e. Do I want to aim to learn proper web development scripting and create advanced visualisation; or simply put geographical information on a map without having to know the technical workings or fiddling directly with code?
CARTO, formerly known as CartoDB, is for me the best choice if you want to get started straight away and need something simple and intuitive. This is not to say that more advanced scripting options aren’t available with CARTO, or that other options such as Mapbox and ArcGIS Online are less intuitive. Nonetheless, using the CARTO Builder tool, it is simple to upload and subsequently edit geographical data into the builder and then get going. You can then use built in style options to alter how your data looks on screen, changing colour and size of symbols, pop-ups, as well as providing more ‘funky’ visualisations, such as data aggregations to represent your data hexagonally or heat maps, for example.
New to the recent CARTO Builder tool are the steps into basic geographical analyses, such as joins, ‘enriching’ from existing datasets, as well as cluster and outlier analysis. Furthermore, there are interactive ‘widgets’ you can add which allows a user to ‘filter’ data as they wish by time, number or name. Furthermore, there is the option to switch to ‘fiddle’ with values more, for instance using SQL to query data, or to HTML in styling. It is very ‘out of the box’ for all it’s customisation options, for example, altering the size of filter widgets isn’t possible in this tool, (hence the awkward length of the map in the CARTO example above). However, the options to customise the ‘out-of-the-box’ CARTO web environment are available, as shown in these examples of CARTO powered maps. I would also add that I was particularly impressed by their support team who responded quickly and readily to resolve issues.
Nonetheless, if you need something that you can probably get to grips quickly and easily, without needing code, and then share to colleagues and friends, I believe CARTO is a good place to start (as well beyond if you wish to get coding).
However, there are other options out there – ArcGIS has the advantage of prestige, size and ability to embed into the ESRI Suite, whether a developer or not; whereas Mapbox and other options provide the opportunity to host GI data and embed/utilise web mapping script libraries like Leaflet.js into pure HTML. I will explore these in Part 2.
P.S.: I originally intended this to be just one post but it ended up being too long for just one, but in the meantime here are some resources below that may be useful for you
Web Mapping Sites
Web Mapping Resources, Script Libraries and Tutorials