Do you need help with creating maps? I’m a geographer and work as a data journalist for Localfocus. It’s fair to say that I make quite a lot of maps. In this blogpost I will share my quick workflow on how to make an icon map from a list of addresses.
Step #1 Turn addresses into coordinates
Note: You can skip to step two if you already got hold of a dataset with coordinates.
I have a list of addresses that I’d like to put on a map. What’s next?
First, make sure you’ve stored your addresses in a neatly structured table. Here’s the file I’m using: a list of the four busiest train stations in the Netherlands.
Ok I got this. So, how do I get the coordinates of my addresses?
A quick and simple way is to use our LocalFocus Geocoder. You will have to copy-paste the relevant cells with addresses in the text field. In this case, cells B2 to E5 (so, without including the column headers).
Click ‘Add to geocoder’. Now check the results. Maybe you’ll get a few doubts or failures. No worries, there’s an easy fix for that. Keep reading to find out.
My (fairly short) list of train stations just resulted in one doubt:
The top suggestion “12 Stationshal, Utrecht, Netherlands” is accurate in this case. I clicked ✅.
Don’t forget to check your language settings. Does your Excel or Google Drive use a comma or a point as a seperator? Use the same settings for the geocoder.
Now all the results are ready to tranfer to the original table. Here’s how to do that. Copy the results from the geocoder. Then paste the addresses next to your original data (in this case, cell F2). Leave the first row empty.
Here, you can add the relevant headers: geocode address, latitude, longitude and status.
A few of my addresses resulted in a ‘fail’, what should I do?
Try clearing the text field of your failed address and retyping the street name. The geocoder will give you possible suggestions while you type.
If this doesn’t work, you can fix this by manually searching for the correct latitude and longitude (e.g. by using Google Maps) and pasting them into the right cells in your spreadsheet.
Step #2 Start a map project
Now that I have a table with coordinates, how do I put these on a map?
Do you want to add an interactive map to your website? Or a print map to a report? Either way, you can use the online mapping tool of LocalFocus. It’s pretty easy, you don’t need to be a GIS pro 😅 Bonus: you can use it for free as long as your maps get less than a thousand views per month.
After you’ve finalized your registration, you can start immediately. Click on the big red button to start a new project. Select the map option.
Next, go through the following steps: click ‘Add map layer’ and select ‘Icons’ in the dropdown menu (under ‘Elements from table’).
Step #3 Add your data
An empty spreadsheet just popped up. What do I do?
Just paste your complete table in the empty spreadsheet. Tada! Your addresses show on the map. See nothing yet? Make sure to check that the columns with the latitude and longitude are recognized as such.
Step #4 Style the map to your taste
What options do I have to edit the map style?
LocalFocus offers quite a few options to style your map. First of all, you can edit the icons. Just click on the icon in the ‘Map layers’ menu and an edit screen will pop-up. I’ve changed mine into red flags.
If you want to change the base map colors, go to ‘ Map options’. I wanted the train tracks to stand out more, so I chose a dark grey shade.
You can also add pop-up screens and tooltips to your icons. (The tooltip is the text that will show when you hover the cursor over an icon.)
To add a tooltip or popup: click the settings icon in the ‘Map layers’ menu:
Here you see the result of my style edits:
Step #5 Share your map
I’ve finished my map. What’s the best way to share it?
Depends on how you want to use your map. If you want to share the interactive map, click on ‘widget’. You can use the embed code to embed the map on your website or use the direct link to link to a full screen version of the map. If you want to use the map as an image, click ‘png’, ‘vector’, or make a screenshot.
You’re done! Do you have questions or remarks in regard to this post? Send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org. Would you like to see one of my journalism productions (using a point map)? In this blog I explain how we found four hundred sites with heavily contaminated soils in the Netherlands. Note, it’s in Dutch.