How to Create a Demographic Map Background Using Map Business Online

In an earlier business mapping blog we discussed trying a variety of the Map Business Online provided background map options for your business map. Recently a customer mentioned using a demographic map background over which they would plot points. That’s a pretty simple configuration in Map Business Online and definitely blog worthy.

How to Prepare a Demographic Map Background

A brand new Map Business Online user might not know where to start.  Start with a new map view – the left most button on the Master Toolbar.  Next, decide what map layer you’d like to use for your demographic background map.  You have choices.  I would guess most user will choose either counties or ZIP codes, but Census Tracts, states, and city limits are all available. See the Add Map Layers button on the master toolbar for all the additional options.

Select your preferred map layer in the Map and Data Box. Check it on. Hover your mouse cursor over that layer a little longer and click the Edit Map Properties gear that pops up.  Within the edit map properties area you can adjust the look and feel of your soon-to-be demographic layer. You have the following controls under the General Tab:

  • Border line controls – Thickness and color settings
  • Fill control – Fill and color assignment for the inside of a ZIP code or County
  • Transparency scroll bar – Adjust the transparency of your fill color to show Streets or topography

Click the Labels Tab along the right side, also found in Edit Map Properties to adjust:

  • Text font size, color, shadow effect
  • Adjust which Zoom Levels display Auto Labels (ZIP code, County, State labels). See the “Start labeling from” drop down.
  • Text justification

Use these controls to adjust boundary lines, map layer fill, and text sizes. Get used to the controls within Map & Data because they help you control the look and feel of your business map. Color, transparency, and text appearance help your map audience to better understand your map’s purpose. A map maker makes it easy for her audience to understand her map.

Color-Code the Map Layer Based On Demography

Still focused on the Map and Data box, once again, hover over the target layer, in our map example it will be a ZIP code layer.  Our goal is to color-code that ZIP code layer based on 2016 USA Median Income.

In the Map and Data Edit Map Properties function, under General, choose Color Code Map Layer. A dialogue box appears and presents the options for color-coding the ZIP code map layer. You’ll see that Demographic Data is  pre-selected.

Let’s drop down past the 2018 and 2017 projected demographic data and use the most recently updated USA Census layer from 2016. Note the wide variety of demographic  data options available in business mapping software. Carefully search down the list until you come to Median Income for 2016. Select Median Income and then review the pre-selected ranges for color-coding.

For color-code ranges, Map Business Online allows up to 100 ranges. That’s a lot for a map. Don’t do a hundred color ranges unless your boss is crazy and he demands it. “This is a witch hunt. I want all one hundred colors used!” If he talks like that, just do what says. In a couple of years, he may be gone.

In the meantime, keep your color-coding options simple. With Median Income I would select four or perhaps five ranges, and then set your range income figures at sensible values such as:

$0 to $25,000

$25,001 to $35,000

$35,001 to $47,500

$47,501 to $75,000

$75,001 to $250,000

Something like that. You’ll note, with median income setting variation in the higher ranges does not generate color gradations because, by nature, Median Income is relatively low in value.

After setting your range and value scheme, click Done to view the map.  It’s easy to go again and adjust values or colors to your liking. Remember, you want the map to be easy-on-the-eyes. Don’t make colors and data obtrusive. Take a step back and view the map. Have a colleague review it to catch things you might have missed.

Lastly, along with your map color-code scheme Map Business Online will provide a legend.  By clicking on the tiny, upper right-hand corner of the Legend (Edit Legend Properties button) you can edit that legend.  And you should edit it.  Make your layer label text succinct. Delete unnecessary labels from the legend, like “States layer.” Try to consolidate layer labeling where convenient. I always delete Legend text that doesn’t add value like, “No Data Available.” Remember, the goal is to help your viewers understand the map.

Now your map has a demographic map background using Census data that has meaning for your map audience.  Import data layers, add territories, drop on some text labels.  Have a ball mapping a nice business map for your constituents.

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Contact: Geoffrey Ives or Jason Henderson

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