Coastal Web Atlas Implementation

Coastal Web Atlas Implementation

Tanya Haddad (Oregon Coastal Management Program, USA), Elizabeth O’Dea (Washington Department of Ecology, USA), Declan Dunne (University College Cork, Ireland) and Kuuipo Walsh (Oregon State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2011 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-815-9.ch003
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Coastal Web Atlas (CWA) design may be based around interactive maps that provide users with access to rich information about the geography of the coastal zone. There are few firm rules about what elements should make up a CWA, or how those elements should be developed. Developers seeking to build a successful product for their audience should begin with knowledge of the needs and capabilities of their users, and design the elements of their CWA accordingly. In general, principles of good web design and usability should be adhered to at all times.
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Introduction: Getting Started

For those embarking on a coastal web atlas (CWA) project, there are many factors to consider in the early stages of design and planning. Primary among these is being knowledgeable about the needs and capabilities of the CWA’s user community, and designing the contents of the CWA to meet those needs. The purpose of this chapter is to provide CWA developers and managers with a range of considerations for implementing various components of a coastal web atlas. Each CWA situation and audience will be different so there are few hard and fast rules to follow, but it is hoped that the range of design considerations presented here will improve awareness of the issues CWA designers face and provide pragmatic advice on potential paths to take.

In terms of getting started, the first recommendation to CWA project planners is to set aside time at the beginning of the project to thoroughly consider the goals of the project, the nature of the audience it seeks to serve, and the long term plans for project support, both technical and financial. Discussion of these issues early in the project will improve the odds that major problems can be avoided.

O’Dea et al. (2007) have an excellent overview of critical considerations upon which project designers should reflect. These considerations (summarized below) are posed as questions that when answered and acted upon by a CWA project team should help form the basis of a successful project

Table 1.
Questions for CWA project teams to consider
• What is the purpose of the atlas?
• Who is the atlas audience?
• What are their skills?
• What spatial data will it contain?
• Are there opportunities for data sharing?
• What functionality is necessary?
• What additional information will be included?
• Which software should be used?
• What operating system should be used?
• What technical and data standards should be met?
• What resources are available for development?
• How should the web site and navigation be organized?
• How will the content be managed?
• How should data be searched?
• How will the atlas be backed up?
• Is the design scalable and flexible?
• What institutional / financial support is available?
• How will the atlas be sustained and updated in the long term?
O’Dea et al. (2007)


As stated in Chapter 2, a map area is at the heart of any coastal web atlas, as this is where the main geographic and thematic scope of the atlas is showcased to users. To some extent one of the early decisions a CWA design team must make is to determine how dominant the maps portion of their project will be. For some atlas projects the interactive map is the central functional focus of the website. In others, it is simply a portion of the atlas content offerings. Neither approach is faulty, and either can lead to a feature- and information-rich resource for CWA users. From a technical standpoint, there are many different methods by which a host can feature maps in a web atlas. These range in complexity of implementation and have different implications for amount of effort involved for atlas hosts. There is also a range of options for the distribution of computing workload between the atlas web server and the client browser of the atlas users. In this section, we cover the typical range of map implementations and lay out the pros and cons of each option.

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