Effective visualization with animated Google Map

Google Map is an easy and quick tool to make map for storytelling. If you need a map with just one layer of information but don’t know much about map-making technique, Google Map is the perfect tool. (For multiple-layer map, I would use Carto.)

Like other tools developed by Google for journalists, Google Map has a clear and comprehensive documentation. The best part is there are many sample codes  that you can copy and modify for your visualization.

After learning the basics, I started to try the animation feature of Google Map and found it to be an effective tool for a quick illustration of geographical movement. I have used it several times in migrant and refugee stories to show the long journeys taken by refugees across multiple international borders.

In this story that compiles essays from five Syrian refugees on their journey fleeing from home, I made an animated map for each of them. The little yellow dot that moves on the map has a magical effect that makes the maps clearer and more engaging.

The moving yellow dot is even more important in this interactive photo story about the 6,600-mile trail taken by a Cuban family to reach the US.  Without the animation, it would take readers more time to understand the map as the route is a little counter-intuitive.