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Interactive Web Mapping

This section describes how to create basic interactive web mapping

Going from web maps that are digital images to maps that engage the user is a big jump, but one that can offer substantial rewards. In most cases, adapting interactive map technology to your land trust's web site will require a consultant to assist you. 

Here are best approaches:

Give your static maps interactive effects:  By defining clickable "hotspots" on digital map (or any other) images, you can trigger new maps that show more geographic detail, create new text and pictures that describe the site, or take the user to a new location on your site or another web site. Working in web authoring or image editing software, you "draw" a shape which then is given actions - when a visitor to your site browses their mouse over the hotspot or clicks on it, it triggers the action (or pops up a note indicating that the action can be taken with a click). You can use any graphic image of a map as a base - add colored dots for each of your properties in a graphics program, then use your web tools to make the dots clickable, taking the viewer to a page about each property. See More Info box for tutorials.

Use Flash technology:   Flash, a product of Macromedia/Adobe, is a multimedia authoring program that can create animations, games, videos and other graphic products. To program with it requires the full Flash software, but to view a Flash web site only requires the free Flash Viewer (can be easily downloaded). 

Flash-based maps are highly interactive and very user-friendly.  To view information about map features, simply roll the mouse over the map.  As the user mouses over the map, features are highlighted and corresponding information such as photos or text displays.   Advanced Flash maps also include zoom and pan tools along with buttons for turning map layers on or off.  The performance of a Flash-based map is very good, making Flash a desirable platform for creating interactive maps.

A good example of a Flash-based map can be found on the Peninsula Open Space Trust web site.

Flash can also be used to create effective time-series map animations.  For example, to illustrate land use change over time in a given region, use your GIS layers for each time period to create an animation.  To add interactivity to an animation, give the user simple controls to play, pause and control the speed of the animation.

A variation on Flash is SVG (scalable vector graphics), an Adobe language that also allows for creation of well-designed web maps with user choices available.  Another popular programming platform is Java.  It is used in the outstanding David Rumsey map collection, an interactive treasure trove of seventeenth and eighteenth century maps.  Each of these can be used to create animated online maps of GIS data.

Online Mapping Services:  Google, Yahoo and Windows Live Local (Microsoft) are just some of the online mapping services that have or are beginning to have easily available simple interactive web mapping.  While each service is different, they work with the basic approach of providing street and photo base maps that allow users to find directions and view other data.  Google has a particularly robust service called Google Earth that has very good functions for land trusts, allowing them to upload their own property boundaries and quickly generate 3D maps with high resolution photography. The example at right shows how the Green River Valley Land Trust has integrated Google Earth maps with its project descriptions - LEARN MORE about Google Earth...

Internet Map Serving:  GIS can be used to present information on the web, taking advantage of its navigation and query capacities. However, to design, implement and serve such Internet maps requires a high degree of technical capacity which is likely to be available only to expert-level land trusts.  LEARN MORE about Internet Map Serving...


Creating Image Maps - online tutorial

Using Image Maps - About.com section on image maps

Directions Magazine - Online map gallery

The Urban Explorer - consultants offering "GeoFlash" technology

ESRI - Examples of IMS-based web mapping

© Land Trust GIS 2006