Create a Map

Learn how to make a map with both mySidewalk data and your custom user data.

Kaitlyn Foster avatar
Written by Kaitlyn Foster
Updated over a week ago

Creating a map is an important part of telling your data story. Maps provide spatial context and help your readers orient themselves. Learn how to make a map using the video below, or step-by-step instructions further down.

To start, click the teardrop/plus icon to open the component selection tool and select Map.

Once you open the map tool you will have two options for adding a layer to your map. Here is where you choose whether you want to use data from the mySidewalk data library by choosing Add mySidewalk Layer from the edit panel on the right, or if you want to use one of your custom layers your team uploaded by choosing Add My Layer.

  • You can have more than one layer on the map. Each layer will come from one of these sources. 

  • To move which layer is on top, put your mouse over the top right corner of the layer you want to move, then click and hold the double bar icon. Use this to drag the layer up or down. 

  • Think of layers like GIS or photoshop layers, or better yet cake layers! The one on top is the one you will be able to see most clearly because it is displayed on top of all the other ones. If you have too many layers your map might start to get confusing. 

If you choose “Add mySidewalk Layer”:

  • The map will zoom to your dashboard's default geography

  • If you want to change your geography, click Select Geography from the editing panel.

  • Click Select a sub-geography from the edit panel and pick one of the options. Census blocks or census block groups are often useful because they will give you the most detailed information about your geography.

  • The Style By Data button on the right will turn blue. Click it and choose the data you want to use. You can search for it, or use the filters that show up on the left to narrow down your options. Follow this tour to get more hands on.

  • Once you find your data, click the dropdown menu to double check that the year the data is from is the one you want (usually the most recent year) and then the blue plus button to add it to your map.

  • If you chose census block groups as your sub-geography and the data you want isn’t available at that level, go back to the right and pick a different sub-geography. Almost all of our data will have information for census tracts, so that’s a good sub-geography to test next.

  • If you’re using the search bar to find data, remember not all data will use the same terms. For example, “work,” “employment,” and “job” will bring up different datasets. If you can’t find the data you want, try changing your wording.

Your layer should now be in the map! You can stop now, or refine it by reading Change the way your map looks.

If you choose “Add My Layer”:

  • You will then see all of the layers that have been uploaded to your account. Click the blue plus to add one to the map. If your layer contains smaller geographies you will be able to select a sub-geography just like with the system data.

  • Click on the Style By Data button if your layer contains data.

  • If you have a lot of data in one layer you may have to choose what specific data you want to use. If the data you want to display is what popped up after clicking Style by Data, great! You can now pick from that. Otherwise, click on Change Data, then click the blue plus by the data you want to be visualized. 

Map Settings

The section in the edit panel labeled Map Settings looks like another layer located under the layers you have added to your map. This section will provide a description of the tools and edit functions you will find in your Map Settings

  • Map Style changes the way the background of your map looks. The default style is Streets.

  • Map Orientation allows you to set the view that a visitor sees when they first see the map. Setting the map orientation is totally optional - your map will automatically be zoomed to the selected main geography. To change this, navigate in the map to the area you want your visitors to see first, zoom in or out to the desired area, and then click Set Current View. You can also zoom to one of your layers under the Map Orientation settings. Here you can click Layers and then a drop down menu will provide the list of your map layers to select from. By selecting one of your layers, the App will then automatically zoom to the optimal view for your data layer.   

  • Add a Title. Your title can describe the data you used, or the main takeaway from your map.

  • Maps don’t automatically display the sources of user data you may have used, and so you will need to add those manually to the Footnotes text box. Feel free to copy and paste the link where you retrieved the data. If the source is commonly known, such as the United States Census American Community Survey (ACS), the acronym will also work as a source attribution.

  • Accessibility descriptions helps viewers with visual impairments understand what is going on in your map. Include the main takeaways from your map and anything else a visually impaired person would need to understand the map contents. 

Ready to learn more? Check out more on making maps with mySidewalk:
How To: Use Filters On a Map
How To: Change the Way My Map Looks
Why is my map blank after I add data to it? 

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