Think Before You Save Your Map

Saving a map view is a simple step in your business mapping process, but do not take that simple step for granted. Business mapping software is all about your business. It’s about understanding who you do business with and where they are located. Your business map will tell you and your audience many things about the patterns in your business.

You’ve set up your map by importing business data and arranging the data on the map in a way that makes sense to you and your map audience. Your map may simply display customers or it may include demography, and perhaps other business layers like distributors, competitors, and shopping malls. Who knows? It’s your business.

At some point, your map will be ready. It will show the basic aspects of your business you originally intended to share. You may even have pulled in extra data points you now want to delete – to keep things simple. But on balance your map is ready to be saved. Or is it?

At the point of saving a map, double check some things. Make sure you’ve accomplished your map mission. I know it took more time than you expected, but so do chocolate chip cookies, if you want them just the right mix between soft and crunchy.

The Legend
Generally maps have a legend or a key that tells the reader what the mappoints are all about and perhaps a little bit about any administrative districts represented on the map. Read the legend associated with your map. Does it make sense to someone who works in your business? If you were showing this to a customer or a funder would they understand your map intent? If not, do some editing – if your business mapping software allows it. Avoid cryptic file names – use actual names. For example, replace a name like DBcustlist_12.45 with something more descriptive like Customers 2012.

Are there legend lines that mean nothing, like the word “Index” with no reference points? Delete it. And think about your audience. They may not understand words you typically use in-house. Change terms such as Misc Accounts to Key Customers, or Okeda and Other Plants to Satellite Manufacturing, Ohio.

And double check your imported data layers. Are they all being used and are they related to your final map? Are there duplicates? While it is perfectly reasonable to have multiple data layers in play on your map, you may have imported data early-on that you’ve since replaced. Make sure those extra layers are cleaned up now. Delete superfluous data layers.

Is the legend well placed? Does it block any key data points? Could it be dragged and placed in the ocean, off to the side but still prominent. Sometimes a bay is the perfect place for a legend.

Good. Now your legend makes sense.

Administrative District Map Layers
But how about your administrative districts, are they set-up the way you intended? Look at your counties, states, and zip code layers. Is your map more meaningful if they are transparent or opaque? Try it and see what you think. Consider the city limit layer. Do city limits help your map in anyway? City limits can add a metropolitan context to your map view. Sometimes it’s nice to show city limits as reference points. OK. That’s done.

Territory or Coverage Area Highlights
Perhaps you’ve created a territory map or highlighted a few key marketing areas. Make sure your colors are distinct. Ask yourself if you can easily differentiate between segments based on color shades. And what about labeling? Are your territories nicely labeled with succinct names? Did you consider adding sales data to your labels? You’ve invested in territory mapping software for a reason. Think about these details in terms of what your audience wants or expects to see.

OK. Go ahead and save your map. And name it something that makes sense to your map audience and your indexing process. You might even consider adding a Title Bar to your finished map.

Now go forth and mapify your world remembering:
“Clean uncluttered maps fueled the magnificent voyages of discovery, while messy maps lit cooking fires at the in-laws hut.” – Wrong Way Corrigan

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About Geoffrey Ives

Geoffrey Ives lives and works in southwestern Maine. He grew up in Rockport, MA and graduated from Colby College. Located in Maine since 1986, Geoff joined DeLorme Publishing in the late 1990's and has since logged twenty-five years in the geospatial software industry. In addition to business mapping, he enjoys playing classical & jazz piano, gardening, and taking walks in the Maine mountains with his Yorkshire Terrier named Skye.
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