How to Optimize Your Business Map’s Look & Feel

Map Business Online includes a variety of specific editing tools designed to help you, the business map creator, to adjust your map for an optimum look and feel.  That said, “optimum look and feel” is a subjective thing.

A few years back my wife decided that we needed to give our peeling white farmhouse a new paint job. We needed to give it a new ‘look and feel,’ so to speak.  Our old house had been white since 1860 – which I barely remember. My wife chose a teal blue. Our old peeling white shingles were going to get painted a bright new color.

New Look & Feel in Process

After the painting got started, it took my neighbor a few days to ask me, “Are you going to stick with that color? It doesn’t really match the neighborhood.” Clearly, his preferred look and feel on the big white farmhouse didn’t match my wife’s vision. And just like houses, maps are subjective.  That’s why Map Business Online includes a variety of tools that give the map creator control over the map ‘look and feel’. But, after you invest time on your map’s look and feel, I recommend not showing it to your neighbor.

Suggested Edits for Territory Maps

Sales territory maps are a common application for business mapping software users.  Usually, our users are building territories based on ZIP codes or counties. There are several key controls over map look and feel that should be considered for territory maps.  These tools are accessed through Map Business Online’s Map and Data box.

Map and Data is a light blue box that hovers over the map area – usually on the left side, but it can be moved. If it’s closed, you will find the blue Map and Data launch arrow at the far left side of the application in the middle of the side panel. Click to Open.  Hover over layers to Edit Map Properties. Read more on Map & Data.

I won’t be addressing how to create territories with this blog post. Read about territory creation here.  Once you’ve created your territory map, Map and Data will display the territory layer as a checkbox option.

See Me, Feel Me

See me, feel me” is what your business map says to your map audience. To adjust the look and feel of your territory map, hover your cursor over the territory layer in Map and Data. Click the Edit map Properties Gear.  You will find yourself looking at a light blue panel with four key ‘look and feel’ adjustment tools at the top. Here’s what I do to improve my territory maps look:

  1. Uncheck all of the map layers in Map and Data: ZIP code, County, State, or other non-territory district map layers. Leave the background (usually Streets) on for now.
  2. Check on the Hide Internal Boundaries box. Immediately your map will become less clutters. For ZIP code-based territories, this adjustment will eliminate internal ZIP code boundaries across your territories.
  3. Next, at the top Line should be checked on. Drop down your line options and select the next thicker Map Layer Outline or boundary option. You may prefer a thinner boundary. Still, try a few options.
  4. Now drop down the border color selection and choose a dark border color. I find a darker, thicker territory border will tell the map viewer that this is indeed a territory map. It brings the viewers attention to the territories.
  5. Next, make your territory fill transparent by moving the Trans scroll bar to the right. Play with the control to see what level of transparency looks best for you. Notice the color selection and how it fades.

That’s great.  Now let’s add some other layers back to determine which map administrative districts like states or ZIP codes add the most value to the map. These map layers all work the same. From Map and Data’s start dialogue, hover over each map layer with your cursor and select Edit Map Properties. Once inside Edit Map Properties, you can simply place your cursor next to the target layer and the dialogue will shift to that layer.

  1. Select the State layer. I like to uncheck the fill and simply select the State Layer Outline or boundary controls.  Try a darker boundary for the state layer. It should be different from the territory border color. Try a few thickness options, and choose the one you prefer. I like using states as a referential layer. I think it gives a map viewer a sense of where they are. An oriented map viewer is more open to your map’s central purpose because they aren’t spending time figuring out where they are.
  2. Do similar exercises with county, city, and ZIP code layers. Turn each layer on, adjust fill and transparency to your liking. Zoom out to a national view and take it all in.  Them zoom into a more regional view. Consider adjustments that enhance your look and feel at the most important zoom levels.
    Ask yourself, “Does this map layer add value to my map?  Or does the map layer in question detract from my maps purpose in some way?” If it clutters the map, turn it off.  If it helps to organize the map view, consider keeping the layer turned on.  Think about each layer. For instance, “Does our business take county boundaries or county related data into consideration when creating our business models?” If it does, then include counties in your map.

Develop a Map Look and Feel

Map Labels

You’ll notice in these Map and Data dialogue pages that there are two editing options listed only the right side of the panel, in the vertically oriented text. The General and Labels tab.  Click into labels to find the label dialogue.  I wrote a previous blog on map labeling here.

As ever, make sure your labels do not clutter the map and that the labels you choose add value to the map.

Remember: Map applications are powerful visualizations tools.  They are also fun to use. Always keep your creative map mind focused on the map’s purpose. Avoid clutter, bright colors, obnoxious symbols, and too much text. The map is about your business. While map preferences are subjective, try to keep you out of your business map.

Filter It

Here’s an extra-credit idea for you. Map Business Online provides several background map options for users to utilize.  You get a map of the USA, the UK, Canada or combinations thereof, to enhance your business map.  But often your map intent is all about a specific area, territory, region or perhaps a district as small as a Census Tract.  Map Business Online has several ways you can filter your data to highlight just the area of interest your constituents want to view.

For States – Filtering by state is a very common requirement so we put a state filter in the Map and Data toolbar. It’s at the top far right of Map and Data’s opening dialogue toolbar.  With the state layer checked on, click the Funnel icon and choose the state or states you’d like to display.  All other states will disappear and the map extent will zoom to the selected group.

For Other Districts – For a focus on one or more ZIP codes, countries, territories, or other map layer segments, use the Data Window view. In the Data Window choose the layer you want to filter by in the upper left drop-down. Then click the Funnel Icon on the Data Window toolbar. Drop down to General on the left.  Next, choose the layer you’re going to filter by.  Now, in the right-side panel select the modifier “Contains” and to the right of that input the name of the county or territory etc. to highlight.  Finally, in the upper left-hand corner of the Data Window check on the Filter Data on the Map check box. Viola. You’re all focused in on your map now.  Don’t forget to uncheck the filter when you’re done.

Another flexible map feature users can adjust is the background map layer.  Read more here.

Choose symbols carefully – read more here. Think about the map legend. Consider preserving your filtered view by saving that map under a different name or a map template.

Back to Reality

Those are some tips around adjusting your map’s look and feel. In the end, our neighbor was happy with the color of our old farmhouse. At least they haven’t said otherwise. Admittedly, I’m better at controlling map clutter than yard clutter. So maybe they’re considering moving anyway?

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Find out why over 25,000 business users log into www.MapBusinessOnline.com for their business mapping software and advanced sales territory mapping solution. The best replacement for Microsoft MapPoint happens to be the most affordable.

Contact: Geoffrey Ives geoffives@spatialteq.com or Jason Henderson jhenderson@spatialteq.com

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