Home > graphics, multimedia examples, weekly JOU4342C post > Create Your Own Heat Maps

Create Your Own Heat Maps

There are never enough tools in the multimedia journalist’s toolbox. Often, the success of an online content producer, like myself, is measured in how well the tool I choose was able to accurately, succinctly and attractively present the information we wanted to share with our readers. While reading Online Journalism Blog, I was directed to a great, open-source tool for quickly and easily creating heat maps.

Open Heat Map allows you to visualize data.

Open Heat Map is an online tool that allows you to upload a spreadsheet of your data and have an interactive online map very quickly. Heat maps are very useful when trying to convey lots of data that show a pattern on a map — home prices, crime in your neighborhood, unemployment in your state, your Twitter followers … The possibilities are endless as long as you have data that shows a trend of some sort and a map base to put it on.

The heat map tool is versatile — are you looking to show worldwide trends with countries or continents being broken down into data points? State, counties or even blocks? Heat maps are a really neat way to show any geographically-based information in a few seconds, with enough information packed into the key to keep readers interested in the nitty-gritty happy.

The map is easy to create, even for journalists who aren’t particularly Internet or technologically savvy. Once your have an Excel spreadsheet (and what journalist isn’t constantly dealing with lists of data?), you just upload your map to the Website. A map base is automatically generated based upon the information provided in the spreadsheet. Then, you can change the key colors and publish the map or use an embed code to pull it directly onto your own site.

I’ll be excited over the next couple weeks to figure out where we can use a heat map to best tell a story. When we figure it out, I’ll published it here.

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