What Problem Does This Solve?

Users need a geographical reference in order to understand and relate to the information displayed on top of it.

When to Use This Pattern

Use of a basemap is advisable in almost all of the maps. Basemaps provide pre-defined reference data and often include a geodetic control network as part of its structure.

What’s the Solution?

Show landforms, roads, transportation, waterbodies, landmarks, and political boundaries underneath the operational data like thematic information, points of interest, parcels, etc. that users can interact with.

Why Use This Pattern?

Basemaps help users to orient themselves with both location and scale. A well designed basemap supports and highlights the data displayed on top. Basemaps often define the projection that all the other layers need to be displayed in.

Special Considerations

  • Carefully select the level of detail to show at each scale.
  • Style the basemap according to well-established cartographic rules and with the target user in mind, i.e. think how the user using the application perceives the places they are looking at.
  • Allow users to toggle between alternate basemaps to temporarily view data through a different ‘lens’

Related Patterns


Basemap (National Geographic)

Basemap (National Geographic)

References and further reading

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