Maproom’s superb interactive UK Parliamentary Constituencies map shows all 650 Parliamentary seats and helps users find constituencies and MPs with electorate info and links to MPs’ voting records. Zoom deep and use search to fly round the country. This online political map can be licensed by interested parties, and it is also a great demonstration of how we can build an interactive online map fed from a spreadsheet. Below we explain how the map is made and why it’s so good.
How the interactive map is constructed with polygons and data from a spreadsheet
1 – Online map base
For the UK Constituencies Map we have started by styling a Mapbox base quite simply with white landmass and a fairly strong blue-grey for the sea. The coloured constituencies are going to be overlaying the land in a later step, so having a white landmass backdrop is essential for opacity effects, whilst the blue-grey sea needs to provide enough distinction from the semi-transparent constituencies to define them without overpowering their colours.
When the user zooms in deep to the map, the road network will show up on the Mapbox base. This is one of the great features of Maproom’s constituencies map – you can zoom in and out to see great detail of constituency boundaries as well as the overview of the entire UK all in one map.
Static screenshots of the map base in Mapbox showing the whole UK and a zoomed in portion of the road network around Birmingham
2 – GIS data manipulated to create a layer of interlocking polygons for the parliamentary constituencies
Geographical Information Systems (GIS) are all about the handling of coordinates and projection systems in formats such as shapefiles, geojson, geoTiffs and many others. GIS files contain raw data – code, not imagery. However, they can be processed with specialist GIS software and turned into a map image.
The UK’s 650 parliamentary constituencies are composed of interlocking polygons. Maps with interlocking polygons are some of the hardest to create because they need perfectly matching boundaries, and many map polygon datasets are extremely expensive because they are so time-consuming to produce and maintain. Fortunately for the sake of our demo, the government provides GIS data for parliamentary constituencies free of charge from the Office for National Statistics.
For the Constituencies map, using a mixture of Avenza MaPublisher and QGIS software, we cleaned up the government’s dataset and produced centroid point data for labelling the constituencies. The centroid point data was uploaded separately and loaded directly to the Election map base.
The polygons data was exported in geojson format then converted into a Mapbox-specific compressed format called mbtiles using a line-command tool called Tippecanoe available from Github. We then uploaded the mbtiles file to Mapbox as a dataset layer with polygons for the parliamentary constituencies.
This manipulation and separation of GIS data makes it possible to make the map itself interactive with hover and click effects.
3 – An easy-to-edit Google spreadsheet to control the popup box information, the colours and the auto-count of seats per party
The spreadsheet element is the main reason for this demo. The online map may be highly complex, but we want non-technical editors to be able to update it easily simply by editing a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet contains all the popup box information, and it also controls the colours on the map and even the automatic count of seats per party.
With a Google spreadsheet changes save themselves instantly, and the map automatically updates itself within seconds – no need to keep uploading files. This feature really comes into its own when you have a rapidly changing situation, such as when results flood in on election night!
The final result is a highly detailed map containing literally millions of pieces of data in a compact space, which loads quickly, is interactive on multiple levels, is sharp at every zoom level and is incredibly easy and quick to update.
We hope you enjoy using Maproom’s UK Parliamentary Constituencies map.
Above is a static screenshot showing the map key as it looks on the day this election map is published (which happens to be the day a general election is called). Within the HTML we have a code that shows today’s date, and a code that calculates the total number of seats held by each party according to the linked spreadsheet.
Please contact us if you are interested in licensing for this map or similar on your own website. We can build interactive maps fed by spreadsheets, and with auto-calculations, popup info boxes and other effects for business intelligence and organisations handling big data. Email email@example.com to discuss the possibilities for your project.