Author: Yogi Schulz

Maps are a useful, low-cost way to enhance a Web portal once you’re ready to move beyond text and simple graphics. The widely divergent approaches the provincial government portals employ, to communicate information through maps, illustrate the do’s and don’ts.

Here are some ideas, derived from evaluating the Provincial government portals, that will be useful for incorporating maps into your Web portal.

Map Effectiveness

PEI wins my award for the best interactive maps. The AutoDesk MapGuide viewer has always impressed me. PEI exploits the capabilities of this GIS technology well. The PEI portal offers pan and zoom, map layer turn on/off, increasing detail as you zoom in., copy/paste, simple print, you name it. Everyone thinking about maps should take a tour of the PEI portal.

The PDF maps of Québec are good in that they contain a lot of useful detail that displays well when panning or zooming on the screen. Because there is an intermediate level of clickable maps between the high-level index map and the detailed maps, the detailed maps print well at a readable scale without clutter.

The PDF maps of Manitoba and Ontario are not as good as Québec. Unlike Québec, printing a map for these provinces produces a poor dense-packed page of clutter. The high-level index map on all three portals is good.

The Alberta government portal includes a primitive map. The Travel Alberta regional maps lack detail just like the maps of New Brunswick. {The Discover Alberta map, based on WorldWeb Travel Guide technology, offers a simple pan and fly over of points of interest that is effective.}

The scanned maps of British Columbia and Saskatchewan can only be described as ugly. The clickable index map is also quite primitive. These maps do not support pan, zoom or drill in to a lower level. The scale is too large to read easily and, when printed, the maps are irritatingly fuzzy.

I tried hard but failed to find maps on the Nova Scotia and the Newfoundland & Labrador portals. There are a few cartoon-like pictures of the provinces but not much else.

Map Technology

Having used a tour of the provincial portals to illustrate the good, the bad, the ugly and the non-existent, let’s now examine available technology to help us add maps to our Web portal.

The obvious first step is to use Adobe Acrobat to publish a set of clickable maps. Visit the Québec portal for a good example of how to implement PDF maps.

For a more ambitious approach, we can develop more sophisticated maps using a rich set of software products. The major products for implementing maps on portals are AutoDesk MapGuide, ESRI IMS, Intergraph WebMap, MapInfo Discovery and Microsoft MapPoint.

Telus Geomatics offers a number of demos at their web site that can spur some creative thinking about how to approach adding maps to a portal.


Maps can be a useful enhancement to almost every Web portal. If your portal contains pages like the ones that I rated bad or ugly, remember that the price to shape up is not high. If you’re interested in the list of links associated with the observations about maps, please send me an e-mail.


GIS Software

AutoDesk – MapGuide

The features and capabilities of AutoDesk MapGuide are well illustrated through the demonstrations at this URL.,,939407-123112,00.html


Intergraph WebMap

MapInfo Discovery

KOREM Push n See

Microsoft – MapPoint

Canadian Government Web sites

Excellent Directory of Federal, Provincial and municipal web sites

Microsoft Streets & Trips