Written by Daniel Schick
Fun fact, when you Google anything related to mobile mapping you will get a surprising amount of hits for maps of Mobile, Alabama. While this whimsical bit of misunderstanding can be overlooked, the fact is interactive web maps on portable devices have changed how we navigate around the world.
Back in, what is now seen as the olden days, you would have to whip out a paper map, and actually plan how you would get somewhere. All of these changed in the early-mid 2000s when technological advances transformed that tattered atlas you kept under your seat into a compact box that give passive-aggressive turn by turn directions. All you had to do was plug in the desired address, and the days of making a wrong turns were a thing of the past (sic). Companies such as Garmin, Tom Tom, and Magellan brought these devices to a mass audience with user-friendly features, and the ability to have Homer Simpson direct your every turn.
It was not long before navigation devices occupied the dash consoles and glove boxes of vehicles the world over, but as the decade ended, a new game changing device would take the world by storm. Smartphones put the power of the internet into the palm of our hands, and revolutionized mobile mapping.
There are a number of companies vying to gain a foothold in the market. These companies provide a while range of services from giving directions to providing informative maps of a given region. However, all of these products have one thing in common, they all attempt to be intuitive and user friendly. Unlike web-based maps, mobile maps suffer from screen size limitations. This means that these maps have to scale to the resolution of the each device and their interactive menus have to conform to a mobile platform. Anyone that has dealt with a poorly designed mobile site will understand this frustration.
There are a handful of companies that will assist you in the designing of a mobile map. Most of these names will be familiar, and all of them provided a unique service that can suite just about any need. As you can guess ESRI, Mapbox, and Google are some of the leaders in this industry, but are some up and coming services as well. Most of these sites will provide the basics that you will need to design a mobile map, however a background in programming is essential to the make the most out of your map.