What Makes a Good Map

Map Example

The ability to present clear concise geographical information is critical to any business. The wireless business takes that a step further with success coming from know where the positive and negative impacts to the network occur. The ability to create easily identifiable maps that can tell the story they need to makes for an improved engineering organization. The more quality looking the map, the better it will be accepted and understood by the final user.

Many organizations have moved to centralized mapping software based around applications like Google or Bing Maps. These platforms contain most of the basic formatting already for clean crisp maps. Typically these centralized mapping applications are essentially display only and may utilize only preset layers. Engineering teams still must have the internal abilities to create quality custom maps for presentation of non-standard data to management and sales teams. Without the ability to create and utilize custom layers, analysis, and concepts in maps, engineering teams may be missing the analysis of the next big thing. Especially when the wireless industry is about selling more connections, that means what works for engineering to look at, may not be what works for your sales department.

With a focus on creating better maps, here are a few items that can improve every map.

  1. Purpose: The map should be trying to convey a particular piece of information or insight. Having a purpose narrows the noise of items placed on the map and keeps the intended audience focused on the message at hand.
  2. Title: A straight-forward title gives the reader an upfront understanding of what they are looking at. The title should be in a large font and include descriptive text regarding location and purpose of the map.
  3. Legend: A legend in general allows the viewer to understand what the information, values, ranges of information are and represent. Having a clean complete legend saves everyone time in quickly building an understanding of what the data shown represents.
  4. Location Indicators: Add items that are recognizable to the viewer. This includes water, landmarks, parks, state boundaries, etc. The layers to include vary with the scale of the map.
  5. Locator Inset: These inset maps help provide one of two things, relative location when having a zoomed in map or zoomed in view for focus areas if a map is zoomed out
  6. Labels: These are crucial to helping a user understand the location, markers, and data. Similar to a legend, labels help users understand the area and data without necessarily knowing the area and data shown.
  7. Scale: Lets the viewers grasp the area shown. A simple scale allows for users to quickly size up situations and the impact of the data presented.
  8. Date: Nothing worse than not knowing when the data presented was from or when the map was created. This might be a simple label in the corner of the map or a subtitle in the legend. Either way knowing when data is from helps to keep relevance of a map.
  9. Orientation: Similar to a scale, knowing the orientation helps the viewer grasp direction. This is extremely vital if a map is twisted (North is not up)
  10. Border: Clean lines let the viewer know where the map ends.

Some sources for available map data layers:

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