Mapping has many applications in the commercial world, including in marketing, advertising, and creating an overall better customer experience. Despite its popularity, many people are unsure of what it means to map something. How are maps created? And how can mapping be integrated into your company’s strategy? To answer these questions and more, let’s take a look at what GIS mapping means, how it’s used in the real world, and why you should use it too.
Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
GIS or Geographic Information Systems are designed to capture, present, capture, and store all types of geographically referenced information. More simply put: it’s a way to make maps. Geographical data can take any form; it might be physical features such as roads and streams or human characteristics such as population density or voting patterns.
For example, if you’re working with a map of voting precincts in an election district for an electoral analyst, it might be your job to break down each precinct by race and economic status. Using census data you might be able to determine which demographics tend to vote for what party.
Using Web Apps
The easiest way to get started mapping is using web-based applications such as Google Maps or Yahoo! Maps. These free tools let you create simple maps and add information about various locations. Using these tools can help you get a better sense of how GIS mapping works and give you a good understanding of whether it’s something you’d want to pursue. They also provide a great deal of flexibility in terms of what type of data they allow you to add and how they present that data, so exploring them can help give you some insight into what types of projects may be right for your business.
Using Desktop Software
ArcGIS is commonly used to create maps in desktop software, but it’s one of several programs in ArcGIS for Desktop. Others include Data Management Tools (used to share data with other users), Spatial Analyst (helpful when you want to decipher large amounts of geospatial data), and Layout View (for when you want to create printable maps). To get started using Desktop, download ArcGIS for Desktop. Once you’ve installed it, open it up and then start exploring its many applications. We recommend starting with Data Management Tools, which lets you share data that can be used throughout your organization.
Designing Your Maps
When you’re trying to create a map, you have two options for drawing. One is to draw your elements with latitude and longitude coordinates, which are considered georeferenced. This means they stay in their proper location on a map if that map moves or resizes. Alternatively, you can just put them wherever they look good, which means they won’t move when someone zooms in or out of your map. It’s important to think about how your maps will be used before you decide which method to use—if users are likely to want to zoom in or out of your maps, you might want georeferenced information so it stays consistent across different viewports.
GIS mapping, or Geographic Information Systems, allows people to view geographical information in layers on top of each other, all on one map. Keep this information in mind, whether you plan to use GIS mapping for urban planning, real estate, environmental management, or something else.