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Questions for people wanting custom cartography done

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#1
Hans van der Maarel

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For one of my clients, I'm trying to set up a number of basic questions to ask when people come in with requests for custom cartography.

The situation is this: the client is the GIS/mapping department of a large, local government (city). Aside from a number of standard products, they also offer custom cartography services for other departments or individuals within the organisation, which are done either in-house or outsourced to a 3rd party (i.e. me...).

In order to streamline this process, we've decided it's important to have some basic information when starting a project like this. So far, I've come up with this list:

- Contact details of the person who comissions the map (a dead giveaway really), including phone, cellphone and email...
- Short description of the map (i.e. "National parks in The Netherlands").
- Intended use ('in house' print/prepress/web/powerpoint).
- If applicable, size of the final map.
- If applicable, # of copies.
- Desired area (coordinates would be great, but an accurate text description would do just as well).

Area + size determine scale, check whether it makes sense. There's been requests for "all house numbers in the city" on an A4 piece of paper...

- Desired content.
- Special requests in terms of style/layout.
- Whether this is a new version of an existing map or a brand new product.
- Output format, in case of digital files (pdf or jpg)
- Deadline.

Anything else you would ask?
Hans van der Maarel - Cartotalk Editor
Red Geographics
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#2
ELeFevre

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Both of these fall under your "Desired content" question, but I think both are important enough to warrant there own headings

1. Labeling?
What features need to be labeled? Can abbreviations be used instead of names? Is a location grid needed? Are lookup/information tables needed? All of these additions can add a substantial amount of time to a custom job, so it's worth asking.

2. Thematics/Multi-variate?
If you are creating a custom thematic map it's important to clarify classification cut-offs, especially when you are dealing with city utility data (transmission lines, sewer, et cetera). It is also good idea to provide the customer with suggestions on the best way to visualize a certain data-set, possibly through multi-variates, et cetera.



#3
Polaris

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over the years I've boiled this down to a short list of six essentials to get things started - based on this, I can usually give a ballpark estimate - if they are still interested, I get the details and provide a proposal and quote

these are already covered in Hans' list, but it helps me to keep it short and simple -

>purpose/use
>extent/size/scale
>content
>style
>media
>schedule

#4
Nick Springer

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I have a Quote Request form on my website which asks basically the same questions as Hans and Eric. It's never enough info to give a quote, I always have to follow up with more questions, but it gets the client thinking about a few thing so when I do talk to them on the phone, they have some idea.

Nick Springer

Director of Design and Web Applications: ALK Technologies Inc.
Owner: Springer Cartographics LLC


#5
MapMedia

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That's all good information. I also need to have a chat with the client for 5-30 mins to get the details, from which my notes become my guide.

For public agency clients, the labelling and terminology are very important. Especially the termionology within the 'legend' box, including the map title, and language for data citations, etc.

I think a detailed form for the client to fill-out is a 'turn off' - where I instead jot down the nuts and bolts of the map (as Polaris shared) over the phone, email, or in person.

#6
Hans van der Maarel

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Just to clarify...

Obviously a simple 1-page form isn't going to cover the intricate details of a very complex map, I'm just trying to get a basic starter template together.

Also, the person processing the request probabely isn't the one making the map, so there's not always the luxury of a phonecall or face-to-face meeting. It has happened that I got the assignment in the morning for a map to be finished early afternoon and the person who made the request being totally unreachable by any form of communication. In such a case, I would prefer to have a clear summary of what I'm supposed to make, rather than wading through several pages of back-and-forth emails (which, in some cases, don't even cover basic things as "how big is the map supposed to be?"...)
Hans van der Maarel - Cartotalk Editor
Red Geographics
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#7
peanut

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I've found that in many cases the client requesting a map actually has no idea or a very general idea of what he or she wants in the final product.

The most important aspect of a map request form for me is that it actually makes the client sit down and think about what he or she wants the end product to look like.

In addition to what you guys have stated so far our map request form lists out various data layers that are commonly used within our organization and allows the client to pick from them.

Rich

#8
benbakelaar

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I may have the most limited experience of anyone on this board but my experiences echo Rich's too. No idea, or only the vaguest idea of what they want, or how it should look. I'm sure every cartographer has had this experience to a greater or lesser degree.

#9
CHART

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Likes others, most people that require my services have a vague idea of what they want. (If they knew exactly what they wanted and how to do it they most likely would not be requesting my services).

So if they call upon you, you must ask them the questions that were mentioned by Eric etc... so you can get the job done correctly (and gain a potential client).

For me, I would find it very hard to process a request for a map in the morning and have it done at the end of the day.

For Hans he might need to have a set of ready made templates (map layouts) that the client can choose from off the web to place is order. e.g. this is what I want it to look like and here is the area I want shown. I bit of a map on demand template (I think).

From a business point my quote page serves only as starter to get the ball rolling (it has landed me some very interesting clients). IMO a complicated 'choose what you want template' seems to much trouble. Most clients I deal with want something specific and the return on investment for trying to create a 'cover all the angles' request template would not be worth it.
Chart

#10
natcase

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We (Hedberg Maps) also have a Long Form, at www.hedbergmaps.com/services/custom_form.html.
We get very few reponses on it.

People either want a boilerplate, cheap ("can't you just press a button?"), in which case having boilerplate formulae at the ready is helpful; or they really do want something nice and specific to their needs, in which case they either can already see it in their mind's eye or are frustrated because they can't and want you to figure it out for them. I actually find the latter easier to deal with, because you can start at groud zero, instead of forcibly reworking a vision that has begun to harden into concrete.

Polaris's list was excellent. I would have phrased it as:

- Area of coverage (I usually ask where they need the map to get to N, S, E and W).
- Base layers/themes needed (and whether they should be labeled or not)
- Number of points/routes/areas to be highlighted
- Physical size of the piece and how it is to be printed/webbed
- Matching existing standards?are there existing maps it needs to conform to; is there a style sheet for fonts and colors; is the logo available...
- Timing (almost never breaks the project, but can jack up the price...)
- Budget appropriateness (always awkward to get to, but perhaps the most essential)

One of my goals in the initial phone call, early on, is to gauge if it's an appropriate fit for us or not. Often we get cold called from the phone book or the NACIS custom cartography list. The cold calls are looking for a map, usually they don't have a big budget, and most of the time we are not the right fit. So figuring that out early and having alternatives to present can be very helpful. Budget is almost always the breaker, so while it is awkward to get to too early, I like to roughly ballpark ("that'll be somewhere between $2000 and $6000") as early in the process as possible. Saves a lot of wasted time...

The other part of this, why the personal contact is so important, is basic education, which others here have touched on . Maybe not explicit, but a lot of people just "want a map that looks like the one our competitors did." Only on letter-sized paper and we don't have a budget. It'a all on computers these days, can't you just push a button?...

Nat Case
INCase, LLC

Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
maphead.blogspot.com



#11
MapMedia

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Everyone has a different expeience it seems.

Curious though, do those on-line forms get used? In other words, do you regularly receive submissions, and are they ~ 100% filled out?

#12
CHART

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Everyone has a different expeience it seems.

Curious though, do those on-line forms get used? In other words, do you regularly receive submissions, and are they ~ 100% filled out?


I think an on-line forms is another way of making yourself accessible. In my case it has been rarely used. However I would not remove it from my site. For the few times it as been used it as help me land some of my best clients. IMO it has to be simple, very simple. If you ask someone to enter the lat long coords. of the area of interest....he might just pass on... too complicated. Also in my case I only make 2 fields a must... email, and the description of what you want. Put yourself in the shoes of a designated employee that is looking for 3 quotes for a specific job. Using a simple form might make it easier for him to get his job done.

One little comment... make sure that you send a confirmation of reception via email immediately (or ASAP). I am working on a PHP to PDF method so the potential client receives his entries in a ready to print form... As of now I kind of process the request manually before sending it. Obviously make sure you follow up with the real quote.
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#13
natcase

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Everyone has a different expeience it seems.

Curious though, do those on-line forms get used? In other words, do you regularly receive submissions, and are they ~ 100% filled out?


I think an on-line forms is another way of making yourself accessible. In my case it has been rarely used. However I would not remove it from my site. For the few times it as been used it as help me land some of my best clients. IMO it has to be simple, very simple.
[snip]
Hoping you will all have a good month of February. Here the cold temp. has enable us to get the skates out...


In Minnesota it isn't supposed to get above 0*F Friday night into Monday.... wind chills down to -30*F [how do you do degree symbols here?]. We're actually looking forward to a visit to Mall of America. The four-year-old is getting even twitchier than usual.

Good comment on brevity. The online form is the hook, the conversation is the reel...

Nat Case
INCase, LLC

Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
maphead.blogspot.com



#14
R. Smith

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From my experience clients are often confused about what they want in a map. Or better put, they are not aware of the costs associated with creating maps and the various levels of details on a map. I have found that, although awkward, the most important thing to ask is about their budget or their ballpark budget. That way I can dial back expectations if I know they can't afford it. Also it puts you on the same page, so no time is wasted in creating quotations that are simply way out of the ballpark. After all you can't get a cadilac for $50.

#15
MapMedia

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In terms of cost, that is a story in of itself. I provide about two quotes a day, and of these, about 50% come through, and I must say, I am not charging what a consultant or large map firm would, so it does have to do with budgets, but also some people's preconception of 'the going rate' for custom maps. Yet, you could not go into Kinkos or your local graphic designer and have them do a design for less than $100.

I have never asked a potential client about their budget,; its sort of like: "How much will that cost?" "How much you got?" :o I simply figure out what work is involved for me, and my capacity to handle it at the moment. I am always curious to hear how others approach this - as I am still learning.




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