While all maps are a great way to display data in an easy-to-understand snapshot, interactive maps allow users the flexibility to zoom in and out, click on specific elements, and access the information they need.
They are so ubiquitous that you have probably been using this type of map without even realizing it.
Examples of Interactive Maps
Tracking the Pandemic
During the COVID-19 pandemic, news outlets created interactive maps to show the rates of infection by state, city, and county, often publishing these maps so that people could zoom in and search for specific data.
Image Source: John Hopkins – Coronavirus Resource Center
Any time we are called to vote, political parties create their own interactive maps to forecast electoral outcomes. Then we spend whole days and nights staring at those maps as they get updated with actual results from voting sites.
Image Source: https://www.270towin.com/
We also see interactive maps being used more and more in schools to show migration patterns, population density over the centuries, and even the evolution of different civilizations as one region gained prominence over another thanks to newly forged trade routes or following natural disasters.
Those of us who work with sales, marketing, or logistics departments know that interactive maps are a key tool for short-term and long-term planning. They can guide sales teams as they manage sales territories; they can show marketing departments where new areas of opportunity might lie; and they are an invaluable resource to help coordinate supply chains, optimize delivery routes, and even determine new business locations.
Image Source: Maptive Geographic Boundary Tool
State governments and local authorities often use interactive maps to monitor weather events and communicate with the public. If you live in an area that gets easily flooded, or in a state plagued by hurricanes or tornadoes, you have often seen these types of maps broadcasted in the news or on government websites.
Image Source: Government of Quebec – Flood Zone Maps
These are just some of the most common ways interactive maps show up in our everyday life, but truly their applications are limitless.
Common Types of Interactive Maps
Everywhere you look, interactive maps are the solution to visually display complex data sets in a clear and concise way.
- In-App Interactive Maps: if you’ve ever ordered your daily Starbucks before getting to the store, you are already familiar with this type of interactive map. Not only can you select the location that is most convenient for you right from the interactive map built into the app, but you can also see if they are out of your favorite breakfast sandwich or if they are running any special promotions.
- Interactive Website Maps: have you ever experienced unplanned interruptions to your electricity? The vast majority of service providers embed interactive maps into their websites where users can go check for outages and repair status, so you are always aware of what’s happening and how long a blackout might last.
- Interactive Maps for Students: whether in your own academic journey or as a parent, you know that interactive maps are a big part of education and research. It’s a lot easier to understand a map showing the concentration of vegetation and water vapor across the globe than to get that same information through spreadsheets and pages of annotated research.
- Interactive Maps for Presentations: if you have ever had to make the case to expand your sales team or delivery fleet, you know that showing data points on an interactive map can be a game changer. Added to your business presentation, an interactive map can go a long way in helping your boss visualize the extent of the business opportunities you are trying to unlock.
- Collaborative Interactive Maps: sometimes, the whole point of creating interactive maps is not only to show data but also to acquire data. With the right software, your teams can collaborate and drop pins in your map, draw on it, leave notes on various locations, or color-code different areas–delivering a unique custom map.
The 5 Best Online Tools to Create an Interactive Map
Whether you search for “map maker“, “map builder”, or “map creator” you are sure to find myriad options for creating maps online.
In fact, entering any of those options in your search bar might result in you feeling utterly overwhelmed. Most importantly, which one of those options is going to truly help create your own interactive map while also giving you access to different map styles, providing an embed code, letting you add photos, and allowing you access to geographic information?
We are here to help you answer that question.
Maptive is the most versatile online tool for anyone who wants to create interactive maps. You can use it without any coding skills and explore all its features to display geographic data, upload your own data from Excel or Google Sheets, customize a world map, embed interactive maps on a web page, and so much more.
If you are new to data visualization, Maptive is incredibly user-friendly. You can get started for free and upload your own data set or use geospatial data built into the software, and play around with all its customization features: upload your own marker images, add photos, edit colors, select unique icons, and so much more.
For more advanced or business users, it also offers a host of technical tools like customer location mapping, territory creation, drive time polygons, radius maps, heat mapping, and even a multi-stop route planner.
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Esri is a great online interactive map creator for GIS power users looking to do spatial analysis. ESRI offers several data visualizations, including animations such ass flythroughs, time series, and real-time maps.
Mapbox is a great tool for creating interactive maps, but it requires technical expertise to use. You can use it to create your own custom map, or pick one of their templates. This is a great way to create maps if you are technically inclined or have developer experience.
While it offers many features, like a Smart Directions API and GL JS built-in functions, it can be rather complex and expensive–especially if you sign up for email support or a product expert.
4. Google Maps
Most of us use Google Maps for directions and to find stores and restaurants, but the Google Maps API also allows individuals and businesses to create interactive maps.
Most of the design features don’t require coding and their tutorial library can help even more inexperienced map creators navigate their advanced features. Their pricing varies based on usage and scale, but it may be less convenient for smaller users, especially after the price increases they announced back in 2018.
Visme is a dream tool for content creators trying their hand at creating maps. It can help not just with maps, but also with infographics and charts: so that when readers interact with them, they can see more detailed information and all the data you researched.
While it does not include any technical features, the platform is easy to use and has everything you need to make your interactive map very engaging, including customizable options for borders, pins, and color coding.
Create Interactive Maps for FREE
Maptive can change the way you do business, create content, and present your research. Customize interactive maps as you prefer, manage how elements and icons show up on display, and create map styles that are unique to you and your business.
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