Mapping Meaning: How MercyCorps Uses Google Maps

mercycorp-logo1Developers have seen the value of mapping APIs. Look no further than our list of map mashups for proof that there's a lot of value in maps to visualize location data. But how useful are web maps to a humanitarian organization? When you're working in more than 30 countries, as MercyCorps is, perhaps the answer is obvious.

MercyCorps maps

Their main map contains clickable outlines of the countries where they work. A click zooms into then country, with a little overview and a chance to read more. Individual country pages focus mainly on the people MercyCorps helps, but there is also a mapping element here. Off to the side, a small map provides context, reminding us of the country's location.

A similar small map is shown on any story page (example). Taking a cue from more innovative online newspapers, a MercyCorps map marker is placed in the city that the story covers.

MercyCorps is not doing anything that is pushing the limits of mapping. They have used Google Maps to add meaning to their work. Even better, they have created tasteful maps, utilizing shaded shapes and custom markers. With so many maps showcasing the standard fare, it does not take much to stand out.

[Hat Tip: Ankur]

Adam DuVander The former ProgrammableWeb Executive Editor, Adam is an API expert now helping regular people connect them at Zapier. Previously he worked at API companies SendGrid and Orchestrate, and wrote for Wired and Webmonkey. Adam is also the author of mapping API cookbook Map Scripting 101. Find him at

Comments (3)

It looks like Google is getting into the GIS game with Google Maps. I hope they can put some heat on ESRI. So far though it seems that Google Maps only has very basic functionality.

[...] Hopefully this means we’ll have reason to write more of these Mapping Meaning posts in the future. For another example, see how how MercyCorps uses Google Maps. [...]