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Maps & Geospatial: Project Planning

This guide provides general guidance on resources for planning a project with a geospatial component, which can apply to multiple disciplines. Specific disciplines may have additional subject-specific considerations.

Introduction to Planning Process: Map and Geospatial Factors Considerations

These factors are important to consider when creating map as part of a project. This planning page summarized key components of planning map and geospatial project aspects: communication purpose, map components (projection, scale, and analysis), planning tips related to time and costs, executing aspects (workflows), managing, and closing. This guide takes a project management approach; however, could also apply to agile processes and iterate components over set periods of time.

Communication Purpose

Questions to consider when reflecting on what is to be communicated in a map or geospatial format.

  1. Why use a spatial representation? Will using a map or a geospatial visualization enhance meaning of a message to a particular audience?
  2. Who is the audience of the map/geospatial component?
  3. What type of format are you interested in? (e.g. print/interactive/image file)
  4. What are the map/geospatial component objectives? How is data represented currently, what additions will adding a spatial component provide?

Map Components, Data, and Analysis


Questions to consider:

1. What map projection is to be used? Is there one specific to your geographic region?

2. Is there a particular scale required? Consider trade-offs of projections in terms of equal area, equidistance, and azimuthal (direction) characteristics.


Questions to consider:

  1. Where does this data come from? format? What research data are you working with? 
  2. Are you creating data that doesn't exist? Looking at metadata? What is metadata?
  3. What types of data do you want to visualize using a map? (dates, location, time, density, themes, gps data)

Tip: Familiarize self/group with GIS file formats

Vector Data File Formats:

Shapefile (.shp): industry standard geospatial data format

Minimum 3 files: .shp (shapefile), .shx (header), and .dbf (database file), May also have: projection (.prj), and other index files

KML: Keyhole markup language

Geodatabases: collection of geographic datasets (vector, raster, tabular)

Raster: Grid, image files (tiff, jpg)

Map Project Analysis

Questions to consider:

  1. Are you working with spatial data for statistics and other visualizations?
  2. How accurate is the data you are wanting to work with? Are there certain accuracy standards you are wishing to achieve?
  3. If data is not available, are you creating your own data?
  4. What geospatial processes, techniques, and analytical methods would best fit your project objectives?

Map/Geospatial Project supplemental content

1. Will additional media/content/digital resources be desired to incorporate in map/geospatial project?

2. What are sources of additional media, content, and digital resources?

Additional Planning Items


Question to consider:

1. How much time do you have to create visualization? Estimate based on prior experience and knowledge?

2. If learning a new software or resource, consider time to learn on own, courses, consultations, and/or individual contacts.

3. Would using a time management tool be helpful for tracking the parts of the project? For instance, consider using a chart (gantt chart or timeline) or setting milestones for individual/group decisions and accomplishments.


Question to consider:

1. Will there be costs associated with data, analysis, storage, and/or display of geospatial components of project?

2. Are there non-monetary costs (such as time) that need to be considered?

Additional Resources for Time and Cost Considerations