Presenting Multiple Maps on Websites
Think about a typical website. It will consist of a number of pages, each of which relates to a topic that is of interest to its audience.
Now think about a typical council website. If it does contain dynamic mapping functionality, it will be on a single page and will contain all of the council's map content.
Presenting all map content on a single, standalone page is flawed for the following reasons:
- It weakens the ability to convey specific messages. Since each web page relates to a specific topic (e.g. open spaces and their facilities), the reader should also be presented the spatial information relating to this topic on the same page to reinforce the messages presented.
- Alternate/irrelevant content distracts the reader from what they are interested in and dilutes any messages being conveyed elsewhere on the page.
- An all-in-one map in an unfamiliar format is often too overwhelming for the casual website reader.
- An all-in-one dynamic map will not be automatically loaded with the content specifically of interest to the reader. Instead, the reader will need to understand how to use the map to initiate the loading of the content of interest. For example, using Dekho, the reader must first work out how to display the tree control that contols data visibility. They then need to navigate the tree control and click on the checkbox corresponding to the type of data they are interested in.
- Sometimes the page might relate to a specific area on the map. In such cases, a relevant map should be provided that has an initial position and zoom that focuses on the area of interest. This approach is unavailable to the all-in-one map solution.
- An all-in-one map will contain limited branding. Often the only element on the page is the title. Wagga Wagga Council's mapping solution is even served from a server using an IP address instead of it's team name!
A website must be designed in recognition of the goals of its audience and their capabilities. A complicated all-in-one dynamic map page is fine for a frequent/more advanced user, but is a poor choice for the casual user.
Instead, a council website should consist of multiple interactive maps that are embedded within pages containing relevant content. The Maprosoft demo contains a few example pages illustrating this approach.