In this tutorial we provide a step-by-step guide on the actions we took to map our community’s Covid-19 related data onto Google Maps.
We wanted to be able to share a visualised and interactive map with the people who coordinate our community’s volunteers. It had to show where our contacts live, what the size of their households are (do they live alone and need extra help?) and what their current health status is. Many of our contacts are elderly people.
We hope that this guide will be useful to someone, even if you use it to map data which is not related to Covid-19.
The guide’s content:
- What you’ll need to get started
- Creating your custom map
- Customize your map
- Updating the data in your map
- Sharing your map securely
What you’ll need to get started
- We’ll be using Google Maps so you’ll need a Google account. Create a Google account if you don’t already have one. Read their terms & conditions and make sure you understand what you’re agreeing to…
- You’ll need some data that you’ll import into Google Maps. You can use your own or download and save a copy of the sample data (in a Google sheet) we used for this tutorial. Please note that we had to use actual addresses obtained from Google Maps (public information) for tutorial purposes only. Any additional information (such as names, household size, contact number and health status) linked to these addresses is completely made up & fictional.
Creating your custom map
Sign in to your Google account if you’re not already signed in.
In Google My Maps, click on the “Create a new map” button
Click on “Untitled map” and give your map a name and description (optional). We titled ours “Covid-19”. Then click the “Save” button.
Next, click on the “Import” link under “Untitled layer”. We’ll be importing our data into the map now.
You need to choose your data source. You can upload a .csv or Excel stored on your device or select a Google Sheet from Google Drive. Let’s upload the sample data from the Google Sheet. Click on “Google Drive”.
Find the Sheet in your Google Drive and click on it. Then click the “Select” button. You could alternatively upload it from your device.
Next, you need to indicate which column in your Sheet (or Excel or .csv) contains the address. In this case it’s already called “Address”. (Click on the question mark next to each column name if you’re unsure what type of data is in that column.) Tick the box in front of “Address”. Then click the “Continue” button.
Next, you need to indicate which column in your Sheet should be used as the label on the placemarks in your map. In this case we’d like the name of the person to be displayed. Tick the circle in front of “Name”. Then click the “Finish” button.
Congratulations! Your map will be refreshed and your custom placemarks will be displayed on the map.
Customize your map
You might struggle to see your placemarks as there might be many other existing markers on the map. You can change your “Base map” (which is the style of map you’re currently seeing) by clicking on the down-arrow in front of “Base map” in the menu (on the left). Then click on a style of the map that works best for you.
If you click on any of your placemarks, you’ll see the associated information on a card.
At the moment all the placemarks are the same color and have the same icon. We’d like to be able to quickly differentiate between the different placemarks based on the status of each household - whether everybody in the household is healthy, elderly people live there, or if someone in the household is sick, etc.
Click on “Individual styles” in the menu on the left.
Under the “Group places by” option, select “Status”.
Under the “Set labels” option in the same panel, select “Name” to display the person’s name. Click the “X” (top right) on the panel to close it. You’ll now see the data grouped by status and how many placemarks are associated with each status.
Let’s change some of its colors and icons to make it easier to find our sick and vulnerable people: hover over the first status (Healthy) and click the icon that appears next to it.
Select green as a color for healthy. Then click on “More icons” and select one of the icons that shows a person being active - we chose the one called “Running”. (Scroll down to see many more icons.)
Click the “OK” button, then click the “X” (top right) on the panel to close it. You’ll see that the healthy households are now green and active.
Repeat the above steps 4 to 6 to set colors and icons for the remaining statuses. Some suggestions:
- Elderly (burnt orange & “hiking” icon)
- Elderly vulnerable (red & “hiking” icon)
- Sick (red & “hospital cross” icon)
Updating the data in your map
Although you’d expect that, as you change e.g. the status of a household in your original Google Sheet, your map’s placemarks will reflect this change automatically. Unfortunately this is not the case. But you can update your data directly within your map: click on the 3 vertical dots next to your “Covid-19 sample data” layer in the menu. Click “Open data table”.
Your data is now available in table format. Change the status of one household. As you make the change to this information, the color and icon of the placemark on the map as well as the information on the card that pops up when clicking on the placemark are immediately updated. You thus have full control over changing information within your map.
Sharing your map securely
Now that you have created your interactive map you can share it with your community coordinators. Click on “Preview” in the menu to see what your coordinators will see (a map will open in a new tab).
It’s extremely important that you do not share this map with people outside your network. The information is personal and if it falls into the wrong hands, can be used for nefarious purposes.
With that in mind, go back to your map and click on “Share” in the menu. Enter the coordinators’ email addresses under “Invite people” and click on the pen icon next to it and select “Can view”. The icon will change to an eye. Your coordinators will thus only be able to see your map. They will not be able to make any changes to the data although any changes you make to the data or styling of your map will be seen by them. You can always revoke access from an individual by clicking on the “X” next to their name in the “share” panel.
Click the “Send” button to invite them. Click the “Done” button to close the popup.
This guide was a primer to help you get started. You can always add more layers to your map by importing more data and styling it. E.g. you can import data on organisations that can assist during the crisis.
It might be a good idea that when we exit this crisis and you no longer have need of such a map, to revoke access to the map and delete it completely.Found this post useful? Help us spread the word...
A step-by-step guide showing you how to map your community's contact data onto Google Maps in order to assist coordinators to respond quickly and effectively to Covid-19 within your community #covid19