Geologic Map Index of Alaska /// a well-designed map repository?

Alaska maps2Today’s map comes from our northern neighbour, Alaska. The Geologic Map Index of Alaska is an interactive platform for querying the Alaska Department of Natural Resources’ digital map resources (I felt like the image needed a kick, so it might look different on the website). The tool uses the map as the platform for entering your query, and allows you to highlight a section to access the maps of that region. The tool is made with a variety of different map overlays including Google map terrain, streets and others. The map is a bit slow to load, which is a bit frustrating, but, as I explain below, I think it is really a well designed platform (compared to some other stuff I’ve seen)


Critique: The tool seems to originate out of a more traditional mapping and cartography institution. Many of the options and the design choices make this a give away. The main sign are the ‘highlight’ tools in the top right corner. I have only seen GIS-users being fans of these tools, whereas the ‘design community’ (for lack of a better name) seems to default to not having many tools per se. I get the feeling that designers prefer using a Google-maps-esque set of default tools, while GIS-users and more traditional cartographers are more inclined to default to “rectangular select” and “identify”.

One thing I found really interesting about this map is that there is a sense that the designers are really trying to organize the data they have in a meaningful way. They thought through the process – people can click on the region they are interested in, and get all the map data for that area. By putting in the labour to code each map and locate it on an online interface, they have provided users with a useful service.

As well, the audience for this map is quite clear, both implicitly through the choice of tools (this is for people who are mapping, and are familiar with the way printed maps work), and explicitly through the messages provided to the user.

While this may not be the flashiest or most ‘pretty’ map out there, and while the platform is quite slow, I still could see this as being a highly functional map and interactive platform that could attract regular visits.


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