You call yourself an expert. You call yourself a consultant. And then you get a call asking how you would put together a web map for a small organization without much in the way of resources, that doesn’t know a lot about geo. And that’s when it hits you: sure, there are the big companies and products that come to mind like Esri’s AGOL, Mapbox, and Carto, but what else is out there? Could something new have popped up that I should advise they use instead? With an ever-changing landscape of products, both paid and open source, and all with varying nuances in terms of their limitations and strengths, how can we possibly know what the answer is with 100% surety?
Thanks to social media (not an oft-heard phrase these days, granted) I now have a great list of potential ways to make this map that I can pass along to the client. It seems this was a popular topic as the thread garnered quite a lot more discussion than most in the geo niche and as such, it feels like there is a need to put them all into one place in a post. Prefer to read the thread? Here you go:
What would you use to make a small map app just showing some points and polys on a basemap for a small municipality? Users might number around 500 a month tops. Let’s say you don’t know much geo. Mapbox? Esri? Build your own woukd be excessive I think.
— Gretchen Peterson (@PetersonGIS) April 24, 2018
Prefer a list? Here you go:
- umap – open source and based on OpenStreetMap.
- Google MyMaps – looks like it requires a google login. Upload a csv with latitudes and longitudes or addresses of up to 2,000 records. Or just plot straight on the map. Embed code provided.
- Carto – make maps with on-the-fly analysis capabilities. Their site says they support educators (the field my client was in) with free plans.
- Esri AGOL – you can probably do it all with AGOL and it isn’t too hard to get into even if you aren’t very familiar with geospatial technologies. The difficulty used to be in determining how much it would cost. But it looks like they may have changed their pricing plans to real dollars instead of points, so it might be easier. (Geoloket was mentioned as an example of an AGOL site that was built by one person for a small city.) Esri Story Maps were mentioned too, a sub-component of AGOL.
- MapHub – upload via GeoJSON, KML, GPX and get embed code for the map.
- MapMaker Enhanced – This is a WordPress plugin and hasn’t been updated recently.
- mapzap – this looks pretty sweet. It provides a “builder” for making a map app and it is open source. Host on GitHub Pages for free.
- QGIS – export from qgis to html, host on GitHub Pages for free. (Qgis2web was also mentioned.)
- Someone who thought “doesn’t know much geo” meant that the person was a dev (they’re not) said “R, leaflet, and five lines of code.” But for a dev this is something to look into for sure. Someone else suggested the combination of Leaflet, QGIS, and json, which is along the same line in terms of needing dev expertise or at least geo expertise. While we’re mentioning these techs we should also mention GeoServer, OpenLayers, D3, Tegola, Maputnik, and Fresco! Again, expertise is needed for all of these (or a lot of time).
- Astuntech’s iShareMaps
- Geojson-dashboard – this looks pretty interesting. You need a GeoJSON file and I’m not sure what you do about basemap needs.
- Geopedia – this seems to be for satellite imagery?
- Mapbox – you can definitely do everything needed with mapbox and they do have a free plan.
- GitHub Gist was also mentioned.
Well, I’m exhausted.
BTW: that list is in absolutely no order and I am not endorsing these or saying that any of them are better than any others. In fact, I know very little about several of these and it is very likely that good details have been left out. But it is always nice to have a handy list of potential tools to take a look at from time to time to keep the ‘ol consulting brain in tip-top order.
Lastly, there is a wiki list of GIS software here. It does not contain all of the above ideas/options though and, indeed, a tool to make a webmap need not be a full GIS package and a full GIS package need not have the capability to create a webmap (it might instead do analysis and output static maps for example). So this list isn’t too helpful for the use case outlined at the beginning of the post but could be helpful to someone else with a different use case.