15 October, 2020

Vector basemaps and marker collision management in Google Maps

A basemap provides geographic context to a location, such as roads, streams, lakes and state boundaries; they also add to the aesthetic appeal of a map. 

Within the Google Maps Platform (GMP), the Google Maps JavaScript API offers two different types of basemaps; raster and vector

  • The raster map is the original basemap that has been used by Google Maps APIs since launching in 2005 and is loaded by default. A raster map loads as a grid of pixel-based raster image tiles that are generated by the GMP servers and then passed to your web application. Raster tile layers come pre-rendered and can’t be changed or modified.
  • Vector maps, on the other hand, are composed of web-accessible data points, lines, and polygons. Vector tile layers are able to adapt to the resolution of their display and device and as they aren’t pre-rendered, they can be restyled for different purposes, depending on what information you are trying to communicate.

    Google has recently released marker collision management in Beta for the Google Maps Platform as a new customisation tool for vector basemaps. To understand how the marker collision tool works, we’ll look into the advantages and limitations to using a vector basemap and what industries the new marker collision tool is useful for.

Advantages of using a Vector Basemap

The vector basemap offers a number of advantages over the default raster map. The two biggest advantages include the sharpness of vector-based images, and the addition of 3D buildings at close zoom levels, which offer users a better quality map and overall user experience when zooming in and panning on a map.

Limitations of using a Vector Basemap

While a vector map is more dynamic than a raster map with the ability to make client side changes rapidly such as basemap style changes, the load time into the browser is slower than a raster map and relies more on the performance of the user’s device (PC or mobile). 

But, there is a work around for this. On the GMP you can update your vector basemap options to load a static map for faster rendering with the vector static map in Beta. 

Test it out here and see how much faster the vector static map loads. 

Marker collision using Vector Basemaps in Google Maps

One of the most common ways to customise your maps is to add your own markers, however, sometimes these custom markers can overlap with default Point of Interests (POIs) that are on the basemap. The new marker collision management tool, currently in Beta for vector basemaps, can manage these markers. 

With the Marker Collision Management tool, you can specify how these ‘collisions’ are handled and how the marker is positioned. See an example below: 

The marker collision management tool enables users to dynamically turn labels on and off by prioritising the most important information to the user. Depending on the industry you are in will determine the markers you prioritise: 

  • Real estate companies would prioritise markers based on the needs of prospective house buyers such as local schools, cafes, shops and parks.
  • For tourism, you would prioritise markers for hotels, supermarkets, public transport and tourist attractions.
  • In transport and logistics you would prioritise markers for bus stops, train stations, and airports. 

Want to find out more about Vector Basemaps and market collection management 

Liveli has a team dedicated to helping your business with any Google Maps related questions. They can help you understand any new features released on Google Maps, like marker collision management, so that you can hit the ground running. 

Our team can also help you get your mapping project off the ground, as well as offer technical and billing support for existing mapping projects. 

If you want to get started using vector basemaps in Google Maps or have any mapping questions, get in touch with our team for an obligation-free chat.

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