Why it's not possible to zoom in published locator maps

If you're reading this article, you probably created a locator map that covers a big area, with lots of markers all over the place. And now you want your readers to be able to zoom into the map, to help them understand where exactly these markers are located. 

Our locator maps don't allow your readers to do so currently. This article explains why and explains how a symbol map can be an alternative to provide a useful map.

  1. Why is it not possible to zoom in locator maps?
  2. The symbol map as an alternative
  3. Using tooltips to show zoomed in images of the locator map

Why is it not possible to zoom in locator maps?

Datawrapper is a tool designed to enable people to quickly and easily create visualizations to communicate a story. 

Our locator maps (like the rest of our chart types) were therefore built with the goal to enable you to explain something to readers, not to enable your readers to explore the data themselves. That's why we prioritize annotations over interactivity.

Here's a locator map that shows the intended use case. You see that it shows  only a few markers and explains them well:

So why not have both, annotations & interactivity? Because that's not easy. How would annotations behave if the user could change the view of a map? A zoom/pan functionality in locator maps could mean the reader either accidentally or on purpose leaves the important view and gets lost in the map, or ends up just playing around and misusing the embed as a Google Maps style tool. 

That's not what locator maps are meant for. This kind of interaction would distract readers from the actual thing you're trying to communicate, we're afraid.

The symbol map as an alternative

In many cases, a symbol map can be a solution. A symbol map is one of the three map types you can create with Datawrapper, and can be zoomed in & out:

This might help with the specific use case you're dealing with. 

However, we understand that in many cases, this is not the desired solution. Sometimes you want to visualize a dataset with  lots of symbols, as in our symbol maps, but with that finer-grain geographical context that our locator maps include; like streets, rivers, or mountains. While you can't produce these kinds of maps with Datawrapper yet, we will add some kind of functionality in this direction in the future! 

Using tooltips to show zoomed in images of the locator map

Another alternative would be to use the locator map but with an image of a separate locator map that is more zoomed-in inside the tooltips for specific locations. 

For example, in this specific map from this blog post, you can hover over specific locations and in the tooltip you'll see an image of a zoomed-in version of the map. 

Here are steps to create this map: 

  1. Create a locator map
  2. Duplicate the map by clicking on the Duplicate button in Step 4: Publish & Embed 
  3. Zoom into a specific part of the duplicated map
  4. Get an image URL of the zoomed-in map: You can do this two ways. Either publish the map to get the image URL which looks like this [https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/{chartID}/plain.png] or simply export it as PNG and upload it somewhere publicly accessible online. 
  5. Insert the image in locator map tooltips (more on how to insert images here)
  6. And repeat steps 2 to 5 to add as many zoomed-in tooltips! 

That's it! 

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to support@datawrapper.de