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So You Want to Start Web Mapping?

Created by Zach Francis
Maintained by LEADR under the direction of Alice Lynn McMichael

Last Updated: 12/04/2020


Here, we will guide you through the basics of conducting research and displaying data using web mapping. Web mapping refers to the displaying of interactive cartography online. In other words, you want to use online resources to make a map for public viewing on a website. This does not refer to GIS, which is a category of analytical tool that allows you to analyze geospatial data. When mapping data on the web, there are some general concepts that we will consider in this handout: what tool are you using, where is your data coming from; and what is your research question?

Mapping Software

There are many types of mapping software which attempt to fill different purposes, but they all have the common trait of working with geospatial data. Here we provide a variety of mapping software, including more heavy duty GIS software. For mapping and digital heritage beginners, we recommend ArcGIS StoryMaps or Google My Maps.

Web Mapping Software

Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

Geospatial Data

Geospatial data refers to data that provides geographic information on the location of particular places. It also usually provides metadata about these location, such as a name or description. Geospatial data can come in a variety of formats, including latitude/longitude data in an excel file, geojson files, and .kml files. Before you begin creating a web map, you will have to think about what your data means.

Questions to Ask your Data

Here’s a list of questions that might be useful to ask about your data when making a map.

Telling a Story using Mapping

Once you have found a meaningful pattern in your data, you can start making your map. Use the available geospatial data for your pattern to create an interactive map in any web mapping software begin to visualizing your stories and arguments.

For more information on how to create a map using a web mapping tool, check out the documentation for the mapping tool you want to use. LEADR also has guides for many of these tools on our resources page.

Additional Resources

Here are some additional resources for learning about mapping:

Return to LEADR’s Resources list