Have you heard the dreaded words, "We really like the map but can you…."? The question is usually ended with "make 50 copies of that"; "change the color"; "increase the font"; "add some text"; "change the title" or some other small request that forces you to redo and print the map once again.
This year I have spent more time with the client to make sure a printed map is truly required (sometimes it is, but more often it is not). Now all of you are probably wondering why anyone would print a map. I’m not sure I have a great reason, but one is because I haven’t shown executives another way to receive the information. That’s right ? I take the blame. I have been presenting information in the same form for 10 years (on paper); why would the executive ask for anything different?
A colleague recently told me one of his New Year’s resolutions was to not send an email attachment. We all talk about the big puffy things in the sky that begin with a ‘C’ (I am not going to say it), so why don’t we use it? A number of platforms allow for the upload, visual representation and distribution of data. I have begun using them more frequently in response to requests for maps. The results have been mixed. Sometimes the client’s response is, "Can I have that in a PDF?" (Cringe.) More often than not, a link suffices the request and allows for a larger discussion.
Here are a few considerations, or you might call them lessons learned. Most are pretty obvious to those who spend a lot of time on the Web; however, they may not be so obvious to a traditional desktop user.
1. Don’t host! Inevitably your site will go down and the link experience will be a total failure. It’s no secret that I am a fan of powering down servers. There are plenty of platforms available to accomplish your task. They will likely be faster, more stable, and have higher availability than your own.
2. Permalinks and URL shorteners are a must. There are several reasons. Trust me.
3. It is better to work on mobile platforms. This one can be tough because there is more than one mobile platform. I guarantee the minute you send a link someone will attempt to hit it from a mobile device. You will receive a call when the link fails.
4. Make sure the data can be easily edited, updated, or stylized differently and still retain the same permalink.
5. Make sure you can retrieve your data/map from the online platform. Yes, that may even mean printing.
I challenge you to begin using links. The worse thing that can happen is the requester will ask for a printed copy.
About the Author
Learon Dalby serves as the GIS Program Manager for the Arkansas Geographic Information Office (AGIO). He began his career with the AGIO in 2000 where he is responsible for managing a number of statewide programs. You can follow him on Twitter @learondalby
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