The Power Of Interactive Maps In Analytics

man in front of large scale interactive map of the globe

Maps are one of the world’s oldest visualization tools. They can tell us a wealth of information, both general and highly specific. Advances in technology mean we can now observe mapped data in real-time and in more dynamic formats. This can be particularly useful as part of an analytics dashboard. Interactive maps incorporating location-based data, for example, give far more meaningful insights than numbers alone. These maps not only provide a spatial context to the data but also offer an engaging way to explore and communicate complex information. 

Why Interactive Maps Matter

Despite their usefulness, maps do not always make their way onto an analytics dashboard. A well-designed map can be invaluable when making decisions and predictions regarding your business. Among other things, interactive maps offer:

Spatial Context

Interactive maps bring data to life by placing it within a spatial context. Whether visualizing customer locations, distribution networks, or demographic patterns, maps provide a tangible representation of geographic data. This spatial awareness often unveils patterns, correlations, and trends that might otherwise remain obscured in traditional tabular or chart formats.

Enhanced Interactivity

Unlike static maps, interactive maps empower you to engage with data dynamically. Users can zoom in, pan across regions, and filter information based on specific criteria, fostering a deeper exploration and comprehension of the underlying data. This interactivity enables users to uncover insights tailored to their unique needs and questions. 

Storytelling Potential

Maps have an inherent storytelling capability. By overlaying data onto geographic regions, interactive maps have the power to convey complex narratives in a digestible and impactful manner. They are a great tool for individuals wanting to communicate certain information to colleagues, leadership, or potential investors.  

Examples of Interactive Map Applications

Retail Analytics

Retailers can use interactive maps to analyze store performance, identify high-traffic areas, and optimize store locations. Heatmaps depicting customer footfall can guide merchandising decisions, while demographic overlays can inform targeted marketing campaigns.

interactive census map
Among other things, a map visualizing demographics information can be used to inform location selection and design targeted marketing campaign. Map designed by Impact by Insight using Power BI.

Public Health

Health authorities leverage interactive maps to track disease outbreaks, monitor vaccination coverage, and allocate resources efficiently. Real-time mapping of epidemiological data enables swift responses to health emergencies and supports evidence-based policymaking.

Energy Consumption

An interactive map can be used to track energy consumption across cities, states, or entire regions. The following map, designed by Simon Evans and Rosamund Pierce, shows the primary sources of electricity across the United States. The map shows a concentration of solar-derived electricity on the coasts. This could be valuable information for a company looking for areas to market solar panels. 

Interactive map showing sources of electricity across the US

Investment Opportunities

The Owner Selection Drives map was designed by Impact by Insight allows a user to see a color-coded map of areas in St. Louis where there are homes with delinquent property taxes. This can be valueable information for real estate investors who may wish to buy the liens against these properties. They may also be able to negotiate the purchase of the property at a much lower price to help the owners avoid reposession and a total loss on the home.

intractive map showing tax delinquency by zip code
IBI’s interactive Owner Selection Drives map shows areas of St. Louis where owners are behind on property taxes.

Celestial Events

Interactive maps are popular for tracking celestial events, such as phases of the moon or solar eclipses. They can also be used to identify planets, stars, and constellations in the night sky.

An interactive map showing the path of all future solar eclipses
An interactive map of all future solar eclipses designed by Denise Lu

Tips for Designing Effective Interactive Maps

A useless map is nearly as bad as not having one at all. Your analytics professional will be able to help you design a map that tracks valuable information while also being visually engaging. A few tips for designing the most effective interactive maps include:

Choosing The Right Data

The best maps start with high-quality data. You need to source data that is reliable and relevant to the question(s) you are answering with your map. Geospatial data can come from a wide array of sources, such as cell phones, census answers, satellite images, and social media. Your analytics firm will help you decide which sources are best for the information you wish to convey. 

Prioritizing Usability

Map users should be able to explore data effortlessly without getting lost in complex interfaces. Intuitive controls, clear and concise labeling, and the ability to easily locate desired information are critical in designing a good analytics map.  

Optimizing Performance

A map that doesn’t work is no help to anyone. You will want to ensure your maps load quickly and respond smoothly to user interactions. Optimizing data rendering and leveraging caching techniques can improve performance, especially when dealing with large geospatial datasets. Your analytics firm will help you by sizing and coding your maps to perform optimally.

Maintaining Visual Clarity and Simplicity

A confusing map with extraneous elements has no place on an analytics dashboard. Balance aesthetic appeal with functional clarity by choosing a clean and uncluttered design. Color schemes and symbology should facilitate the interpretation of the data, not distract from it. 

Incorporating Contextual Information

While many maps require little in the way of clarification, you still need to inform users of what they are looking at.  Contextual information helps users understand the significance of spatial patterns and make informed decisions. This can be accomplished through an informative title, legends, and annotations. 

Enabling Customization

Maps can show a lot of information at once. Empower users to customize map views and apply filters based on their preferences and analysis goals. This not only allows for better and faster decision-making, it also promotes data democratization in the workplace. Customization features enhance user engagement and foster a sense of ownership over the data exploration. 

Data Analytics in Denver

Interactive maps incorporating location-based data are invaluable assets in analytics visualization dashboards. But, as we have seen, they require a good deal of planning and expertise to be effective. You will want to consult with someone who can help you locate relevant, high-quality data and design a helpful and engaging map based on that data. 

In Denver, the specialists at Impact By Insight have experience building dynamic, informative dashboards that include thoughtfully designed maps. We love customizing dashboards to suit our clients’ needs and preferences. Give our office a call or go online today to schedule a consultation with us. 

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