How to Design Fast, Interactive Maps Without Flash

    by Bonnie Bogle
    April 22, 2011

    Until recently if you wanted to create a fast interactive map to use on your website you had two main options – design it in Flash, or use Google. With the prevalence of mobile devices, for many users Flash isn’t an option, leaving Google and a few competitors (like Bing). But we are developing open source technologies in this space that provide viable alternatives for serving fast interactive maps online – ones that often give users more control over map design and the data displayed on it.

    [TileMill, our open source map design studio](http://mediashift.org/idealab/2011/03/telling-better-stories-by-designing-custom-maps-using-tilemill059.html), now provides interactivity in the [latest head version on github](https://github.com/mapbox/tilemill). Once you design a map with TileMill, you can enable certain data in the shapefile to be interactive.

    ![Map interactivity in the latest version of TileMill](http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5142/5640168265_ca0617d4ba.jpg)


    When you export a map into [MBTiles](http://mbtiles.org/), a file format that makes it easy to manage and share map tiles and which you can easily export any map made in TileMill to, all the interaction is stored within the MBTiles file. This allows us to host interactive maps that are completely custom designed – including the look and feel and the data points – that are as fast as Google Maps.

    An example of [an interactive map using TileMill](http://developmentseed.org/blog/2011/apr/7/i-heart-npr-facebook-app-maps-fans) is the map in NPR’s [I Heart NPR Facebook App](http://apps.facebook.com/iheartnpr/), an app that asks users to choose and map their favorite member station.

    ![NPR Using TileMill](http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5106/5592663905_b64fbabb07.jpg)


    Yesterday, [Tom MacWright](http://developmentseed.org/team/tom-macwright) gave a talk about [designing fast maps and other emerging open source interactive mapping technologies](http://where2conf.com/where2011/public/schedule/detail/17440), and specifically comparing them to Google, at the [Where 2.0 Conference](http://where2conf.com/), a leading annual geo conference. If you’re interested in learning more about this and weren’t at the conference, [check out his slides, which are posted on our blog](http://developmentseed.org/blog/2011/apr/21/presenting-map-interactivity-without-flash-where-20).

    Tagged: development seed flash google maps mapping mbtiles npr open source tilemill Where 2.0

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