Basic web maps. That’s what many people need from Geographic Information Systems: no more, no less. They want to see some kind of business information in a spatial context, because they need to get some kind of message on location, as well as perhaps proximity, across.
Nothing wrong with them per se, only it’s a perhaps a little… well, old. Very 2002. I used ArcIMS for mapping applications around that time, and it worked a treat – web maps online that weren’t just HTML image-maps were great.
Thing is, times have changed. It’s still possible to have an ArcIMS web map service, but the expectation from the end user is something less GIS, and something more map. Or should I say, something more Web 2.0. The standard has been set, and it’s easy to disappoint, unfortunately.
Yet, it shouldn’t be difficult to produce something that’s a little better these days. Since Google Maps completely changed the face of web mapping, there’s no reason that the newer APIs shouldn’t be used – Google Maps API itself being a great place to start. OS OpenSpace is a great place to go, or indeed, to use OpenLayers. Or even choose flash if you have to.
My point being, the role of a map on an organisation’s web site is often to convey information about the location of services. A user is far more likely to get that information using a (newer) intuitive interface, rather than old style, clunky, unwieldy interface that used to be the norm. Again, nothing against the journey we took to get here via the ArcIMS HTML Web Map – it served its purpose very well.
But we’re a long way down that road now, and it’s time to update.