There are websites that publish geographic-related data but lack a geographic-oriented user interface. We selected two such sites for this project initially but a third is in the works now. The two sites are similar to one another and offer their viewers photos and historic descriptions of airfields that have been abandoned or were little-known. We developed a map-based user interface that takes advantage of existing maps and mapping services.
Since the U.S. website has over 2,500 locations and the Europen website has over 1,000, we didn't want all the selections (markers) to be on one crowded page. So, we established geographic areas and color-coded them.
When you click within the area, you're taken to a Google map that displays markers for the airfields. We could have also used a SVG format map here as well but the Google map is more convienient—it understands latitude and longitude data directly and allows direct satellite views. When you click on a marker, a tooltip pops up that displays basic information and a link (or two) that takes you to the webpage for the airfield.
We chose existing outline maps of the U.S. and Europe that were coded in SVG format. The SVG format allowed us to develop highly-interactive maps using simple tools—mostly a plain text editor. For the first phase of this project, the SVG maps allow the user to select a region of a country or continent. Once selected, we use the Google Maps API to display the map with markers indicating the locations of airfields. Those markers contain links to the pages of the websites that have the photos, historic information and viewer comments. The use of the Google Maps API allows the user to zoom in to see a satellite view of the airfields and surrounding areas.
The second phase of this project will be to place the markers directly on an SVG map, that either eliminates the need for the Google maps or allows the user to select the map to be used.
The data for the airfields is stored in an XML file, which Google Maps accesses when creating the map images. Note that the XML file and SVG file are plain-text files, so simple tools are used when working with them. We used the usual text tools that you find on a Linux platform.
We expect to add a search capability soon. This will allow the user to search for airfields by name or some other metadata.
Here are links to both the original text-based website and our map-based enhanced pages for both the U.S. and European sites:
|Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields||text-based||map-based|
|Abandoned ... Airfields In Europe||text-based||map-based|
Here's material we found useful when cotemplating this project.
Geographical Association: Spatial thinking