When I started researching my section of Wealthy Street, I had a lot of trouble trying to understand my area as whole, how locations related to each other, and was frankly overwhelmed and confused on where to start. In order to solve this problem, I did the first thing that came naturally to me, which was to create a map. As I continued through the research process, this map continuously evolved to fit my needs, eventually transforming into a multilayer Excel map that helped show changes in a small section of Wealthy Street over a century. It was at this point that I realized that the map research style posed one major problem... it was NOT wiki compatible. Anybody who has added geo-coordinates to their wiki pages understands how difficult, lengthy, and limiting the google map feature can be. In order to share my research as I SAW IT, I needed to develop a new way of making maps on the wiki.
Multilayer Excel Map
The first series of maps that I created was based off an Excel format. Excel was chosen as the medium simply because its layout and features quickly offered the ability to create and edit "boxes" that closely resembled actual lots on a map. Additional layout tools and years of experience with the program also added to me decision to chose the program. As you can see in the multilayer Excel map, years are represented by tabs at the bottom of the page. Because the maps are all aligned on top of each other, one can quickly click between these tabs and thus virtually jump in time at the same location. This allows for the user to quickly and easily see changes in a specific location over time. An Excel to wiki converter was experimented with to see if the excel map could be transformed to wiki code. Unfortunately the wiki is limited, and poor results were created. However, as Excel also offers the capability of adding images, making links, and saving the file in web format, a new html page can be created through excel and ran through an external site but linked through the Viget. Although, currently not on a domain, the online mapping format can be found at HTML Excel map.
Quickly browsing through the excel style map, one can see many problems:
- Formating is limited, including the layering images, the drawing lines, and the organizing of lots and roads on the map.
- Overall feel of the site lacks interest or inspiration as Excel limits page formating.
- The page is incapable of being centered, and may run off of pages with small screen resolutions.
- Flash and animation can not be added to the file preventing the idea of embedding video or sound links from the respective section of Wealthy into the page.
- Page is external from Viget and requires additional domains on which to display it.
In order to create a more visually appetizing and less limited mapping style then that created through the Excel format, a new format was constructed using Adobe Photoshop and Dreamweaver as shown in Interactive Wealthy Map. Here Photoshop was used to create the background, text, images, and organize them on the page. Dreamweaver was then used to code the page and create links. Although this new format is more user friendly and results in a more professional looking map, it still has several problems:
- Lengthy intial setup time for EACH map, each map needs to be created from scratch.
- Lengthy process for any changes to the site, you would have to re-link everything.
- Requires a knowledge of both programs thus limiting the number of users.
- Hard to follow layout (reorganization of layout needed).
- Change in a location over time has been dropped.
Despite the issues, Interactive Wealthy Map still provides significant help as it creates a mock map that allows for current users to interact with and thus help direct any future changes to the Viget mapping format. Positive experiences include:
- Image links allow for user to choose locations on Wealthy Street based on visual memories rather then simple street addresses.
- Map serves as an outline page that allows for users to look over all pages, and link out as they wish rather then have to dig deep through the viget.
- Map produces strong correlations between locations and their relationships with each other (geographically)
- Capable of showing demographics.
The final step towards creating a more user friendly/helpful mapping format may lay in google's open map feature. Additional research will be conducted in this area in the near future.