If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many is a map worth?
If you are taking the time to produce a web map it means that you have data that is worth sharing and therefore contains a visual message that will be of use to others. We use the term ‘map story’ to describe a map that is extremely focused and exists to tell the story of the data in the clearest way possible.
A truly great web map will leave the user with absolutely no doubt about the story that’s being told through the data and they will leave feeling that they have learned something new through their interaction with the map.
The map above is a great example of a focused, high impact map with a clear message. As soon as the map is loaded the user is greeted with the question in large font at the top of the page “Could a Fukushima like Nuclear Accident Happen in the United States?”. Immediately, they know what they are looking for in the map data that is presented before them.
The map itself uses rich colors for maximum visual impact and large red markers for the nuclear facilities. For those of us used to stylising maps on the desktop with subdued pastel colors and cross hatch fills it can take a little getting used to these high impact color schemes but we need to remember that when making web maps it’s not only the medium that’s changed it’s also the audience. The internet is the land of constant distractions and minuscule attention spans, and your map has to compete with those distractions and engage the user from first second the map loads.
When we look at the legend we can see that it’s extremely simple with only two layers: nuclear facilities and seismic hazard data. We could have easily of added a point layer showing the location of each individual earthquake but would it have added to the story or just acted as an unnecessary distraction from the maps core story?
When it comes to story maps, less is definitely more.