6 Things GIS Professionals should know about Web Mapping

The use of GIS in different industries has exploded with the advent of such technologies like Internet of ThingsMachine Learning and Artificial Intelligent that facilitate data analysis and sharing within users on the web or a network. In sharing spatial data with partners, stakeholders, clients and the public, we foster development and creation of knowledge bases that help governments and the private sector to make timely and well-structured decisions in terms of planning and analysis. This therefore calls for professional work execution by experts from the Geospatial realm to help industry attain sustainable development as planned in their goals and objectives. In this article, I will share six important aspects to be considered when developing web mapping applications;


When developing a web mapping application, the main goal in this is to inform the users on the contents of the map. The map should be communicating to the users/visitors so as to avoid misunderstanding amongst them. Communication in a web map can be of many forms such as the styling, display, size of objects and many more. As a professional, you ought to seek completeness in the web map so as to ensure maximum communication to the user of the system.


Implementing the KISS(Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle should be key when developing your web mapping application. This helps the user to quickly conduct an action with much less hustle. Users dislike long procedures or complex steps to achieve a functionality and this will put them off from your application. The aspect of simplicity can be portrayed in a number of ways, for example, Register and Login links should be placed in a very accessible location of the page, the registration process should not ask for too much details, implementing the convectional functionalities such as Zoom In on a map after double clicking and so much more. Simplicity, however, does not mean less or lack of a functionality in your web map but trying to provide a product with functionality in a more precise way.

Load Time

A web map that takes 5 seconds to load is much way better than one that takes 30 seconds to display. Readers are impatient and don’t have much time to wait for your map to display. A user using a smart phone is always concerned about the consumption of mobile data when accessing heavy websites that take long before displaying the data they want to access. This becomes a put off on your web map if it takes this long. One important aspect in developing a web page is the loading of large files last i.e Heavy JavaScript files come at the end of the script. This is one way of increasing page loading speed.Another tip for this would involve, loading one or two layers at load time and allowing the user to add the rest of the layers at wish. This is also a good approach for web maps with many layers. More loading time, heavy files first, more bundle consumption … sucks!!.  Try accessing Google maps and OpenStreetMap pages and notice the loading speeds yet they have so much data in them.

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Optimize web maps for all screen sizes

As technology advances, screens are getting smaller and smaller and in other fields, they are getting bigger. Optimizing your web map to allow for this flexibility will not only make your application better but also sustainable for longer time. Technologies such as Bootstrap and Material design have really aided better displays for web applications on our screens and responsive sites too. This ensures that none of your user groups is left out in terms of access to your application. Google Maps is one of the platforms leveraging material design. For examples on this check out Material Design Blog

Browsers are different

Some years ago, I did a web mapping application that worked very well with my favorite browser, Google Chrome. I also tested the system on Mozilla Firefox and it worked marvelous. I did this on a Linux environment and so I thought all was well. Months later after completing the system, I hosted it somewhere on an on-line server. To my surprise, someone called notifying me that some parts of the system never worked with Internet Explorer. This caught me off-guard since I had not used IE before for testing my system and I knew something had to be done. It took me a week to make my system work on IE. Whooah!! That was harsh. This is is the hustle am talking about. Whenever you are developing an application be sure to test on all existing browsers to ensure its working. There are so many users out there who don’t use either Chrome, Firefox or Safari but have other browsers that work best for them. Always consider this when making your web map. I know most of you have experienced this but now that you know, don’t be a victim next time.

Users think differently

One main challenge in developing web mapping applications is the fact that developers tend to assume users think like them. This leads to the development of a complex system for the users to use. Actually, users never like the idea of thinking while using a web application. Document the steps one should follow and give clear insights on how to use the application. With this your free your readers the hustles of finding links or buttons to use.

What do you think? Only six factors are highlighted in this post, but there exist others too. Take a look at this and if you have additional or different thought on this, don’t forget to leave a comment below!!



Wanjohi Kibui
About Wanjohi Kibui 23 Articles
A GIS Developer, Consultant and Author.Passionate about Geospatial technologies. To read more about his work, visit http://www.lifeingis.com Access video Tutorials on YouTube
  • Anonymous

    Nice read