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create custom maps for e-learning

Here’s an issue I run into quite a bit: I need a map for my e-learning courses; but I don’t need a detailed map.

Stock image sites are fine for generic illustrated maps but they’re usually too generic. The other option is to do a screen grab of an online map, but then that’s often too detailed.

Recently, I was working on a map demo where I needed a specific map, but I didn’t want a real map screen shot because it was too busy and I knew the stock sites couldn’t provide what I needed because it was too specific. Fortunately, I found this site, Snazzy Maps, that makes it easy to customize Google’s online maps.

Examples of Custom Maps for E-Learning

Here’s why this comes in handy.

Most maps have too much visual information. For example, if I built a labeled graphic map of some historic sites in Washington, D.C. I need a simple map for reference, but I don’t need all of the street names and colors that may distract from my labels. Instead I want a map that gives me some context, but allows the label to be the star of the show.

Washington DC labeled map interaction

In the example above, the real online map has way too much visual info. It’s hard to know where to look first. In fact, it’s difficult to see the markers because of all of the colors, text, and roads. I’m not using this map to drive an Uber so I probably don’t need all of the detail and distracting visual information.

Washington DC gray map label interaction

This next example above is the complete opposite. All of the colors are turned off as well as many of the roads. A gray scale map like this allows the accent colors from the labels to really pop. In fact, one of the best simple tips for course design is to get rid of competing visual information like colors and then only use color to accent or highlight content. In this example, the marker colors are much more distinct.

Washington Dc interaction color map

For this particular interaction, I like having a little color to show the park and monuments in relationship to the city and water. I turned off the titles and some of the roads. You can still recognize it as a map, yet it’s not quite as busy.

Customizing the Maps

To be honest, I don’t have the patience to learn how to use the Snazzy Map site. So I started with one of the maps someone with more patience created. And from there it was just a lot of clicking around to see what I can edit. Most of it makes sense and with a little practice you can get almost any look you need.

Washington DC custom maps examples

If you need a custom map for your e-learning courses, check out the site. I may come in handy.


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4 responses to “How to Create Custom Maps for E-Learning”

This is a nice find, the maps look really good. Do you have any ideas for how to create a map of a fictional place? I have a scenario in my e-learning based on a fictional town and need to create a map for it.

June 26th, 2019

So I was looking for your participation in making maps accessible to those with vision problems such as color blindness or need for magnification. It’s a challenge in the map design process. What do you think?

June 26th, 2019

@James: I’d just find some small town on the map and get rid of the labels and anything that identifies it.

June 26th, 2019

I think people who need magnification tend to have the tools available to them on their computers. As far as colors, the map app I showed lets you modify colors, so it seems that you could make any color you need. But again, the user’s computer may already have features that enable the changes they need.