November , 2015
That old adage is truer than ever- it’s all about location.. And when it comes to the current tech ecosystem, location-based apps and services are par for the course, and for good reason. We have the technology to have our communities, towns and neighborhoods at our fingertips and get acquainted with the world around us at the touch of a button. We like to watch where our drivers go, if our laundry delivery service is on the way and which sushi place is less than a five minute walk from us. Maps, and more specifically, interactive maps can take your service to the next level, bring together a community and organize data through a clearer lens. So, how do you integrate maps into your organization without breaking the bank?
Whether you just want to clarify your location, build a community or track service, there’s an accessible tool out there for you. Some require development skills while others are plug and play systems, but all are available for free. Below, we’ve curated 6 fantastic map building tools so you can get yourself on the map.
1- Google My Maps
My Maps offers a high level of detail and customization. You can add directions, points of interest and color-coated location markers in different shapes (a drop pin, star, square or circle). You can also draw lines to indicated borders or routes and add multiple sets of step-by-step directions, too. All of this can be sorted easy-to-manage layers of information.
My Maps can also be accessed through a mobile app.
Mapme is a platform that enables anyone to build smart and beautiful maps without any coding. It allows you to turn on and off powerful features such as events, jobs, crowdsourcing, rating, reviews with a click of a button. Data can easily be imported into maps. The platform is a great solution for all kinds of organizations. It can be used by a local brewery organization to map breweries, a teacher can create a map for the class and ask students to contribute information to it, or a publisher to create individual maps for articles. For some great examples of Mapme’s possibilities, check out this list of maps. Mapme’s best feature is how easy it is to get the community involved and adding. No coding knowledge required.
ZeeMaps enables you to design and publish interactive maps with a whole range of features, including data imports from excel, csv and even Google docs.
The nice thing about ZeeMaps is that once your data is on there, the maps are highly customizable, allowing you to choose from custom icons, color regions, multimedia and more.You can also create custom fields without any development knowledge. Their three tiered access feature - viewer, member and admin makes this a great option for presentations and group data analysis projects. ZeeMaps offers free as well as paid versions. You can check out the options here.
4- Google Maps API
Probably the best known and the most often used, the Google Maps API is the standard for online maps that are easily integrated across platforms. Google Map’s API allows for street level views along with Google Places integration, providing information and even reviews for locations in which your audience might be interested. The maps are customizable by color, visibility levels and even labels. This high level of customization can require some coding but as usual, Google provides detailed tutorials. For those who really don’t want to take the time to sift through tutorials, there are other services that work with the Google API and quickly help you customize. Check it out here.
Mapbox is a great map-based solution for spatial analysis on the fly, making it easy to integrate location into any mobile or online application. Their goal is to “change the way people move around cities and understand our planet.” Their coolest feature? The tool offers a Smart Directions API, allowing you to integrate live directions into your app. For example, when a courier accepts a task, Smart Directions generates a route specifically for their mode of transportation. If you’re looking to be the next delivery or service to door app, this one’s for you. It counts Pinterest, Evernote and Foursquare amongst its users. Mapbox calls itself a mapping platform for developers but the web-based editor is easy and a great place to start. Mapbox has starter packages for up to 50,000 monthly users and 1 style. For more, there are two premium packages to choose from with up 30 different styles. You need development skills to use Mapbox.
UMapper allows you to create embeddable maps without a ton of coding expertise. Counting National Geographic, USA Today and the Huffington Post amongst its users, UMapper allows for the creation of geogames, interactive maps and for monetization through advertising. You can also choose from map providers - such as Bing, Google and Yahoo. UMapper provides detailed usage statistics on your maps. Packages are available in both free and premium packages.
By: Ben Lang, Cofounder, Mapme.