Get to Know the Types of Maps, and Why We Use Them

We’ve all had to use maps at one point or another, and some of us on a regular basis. Whether it was one of those huge fold out booklets that take up the entire car, or the convenient apps on our phones that allow us to carry one in our pockets wherever we go, we’ve all needed them.

Maps started out as a graphic representation of features and areas drawn to scale. They help depict the Earth’s details in a particular area, be it a city, continent or the world as a whole. They’re used to show terrain, roads, landmarks, and so much more.

Even with the importance of maps being clear, they’ve been slow to evolve over the years. The standard paper map has stayed largely unchanged for centuries. But technology has started a revolution in cartography and the history of maps. Now, they’re just as likely to be digital and three-dimensional as they are to be hand-drawn on a piece of paper.

With WP Go Maps, you have the option of integrating five different types of maps into your website. Here’s what you need to know about them.

Terrain Maps

Terrain maps, also known as topographic maps, represent all natural and man-made features on the ground. This shows all roads, railways, mountains, lakes, rivers, power lines, the list goes on. It’s a two-dimensional representation of the Earth’s landscape. They include details such as elevation, contours, buildings, forest cover, marshes and more.

These maps are often used for land planning before construction, to determine the best travel routes and by outdoor enthusiasts as a safety and preparation guideline.


A roadmap, or street map, focuses more on the roads and transportation routes rather than natural features. These maps often include historical buildings, tourist sites, parks, hotels, restaurants, transport services such as airports and train stations, and at times political boundaries. It’s always best to plan a trip before heading out. 

Roadmaps are important for a couple of reasons:

  • They allow you to be more aware of your surroundings and avoid potentially dangerous areas .
  • It helps to easily navigate an unfamiliar area while traveling.
  • Tourist attractions, historical buildings and popular hot spots are pinpointed for your convenience.

Satellite Maps

These maps use satellite imagery to give a realistic, high quality picture of a specific location. A satellite camera will take two pictures at once, one in black an white and the other in color. In less than a second, these images become a copy that we receive as a satellite image. 

They can be used for many reasons and are very popular due to their ability to show what an area looks like in real life. They help to monitor the natural environment, taking factors such as water, vegetation and air movement into consideration. It also helps with measuring and tracking the activity of people and the impact humans have on the Earth.

Hybrid Maps

A hybrid map is quite unique in the sense where it’s not one or the other, it’s both. This is a way of combining normal maps, more specifically roadmaps and terrain maps, with its satellite view. An all-encompassing, highly detailed map of roads, buildings, landmarks, natural features and weather conditions.

Hybrid maps can be useful tools if you want to know more about a destination you aren’t too familiar with, particularly when planning overseas trips. They are the best way to prepare for distance travels and can be a valuable safety measure.


Like every other map, a heatmap is a geographical representation. Unlike all the other maps, this data is shown using colors and shading. They are more useful when the geographical location of specific items is important. In WP Go Maps v6 the colors represent the density of “Markers” on the Map within an area drawn in the Map Editor. Since the radius of the heatmap area is fixed regardless of zoom level, it’s useful for showing a lot of things that gradually separate as you zoom in.

Different types of heatmaps include:

  • Regional Heat Maps – These are used to show the differences in data within a given region. 
  • Hot Spot Maps – This is what people typically think of when referring to heatmaps. They are used to show the densities in data within a specific area. 
  • Choropleth Maps: Another common heatmap that you may have seen. These maps are color coded according to relevant statistics. It’s a great way to show the differences in population densities in a certain area. 
  • Proportional Symbol Maps – This shows where things are happening, in each area. For example, how many Harvard Law graduates live in each State of America. Symbols are typically added to represent real objects. 

We use maps for so many different reasons, from navigating through unfamiliar terrain to planning the safest route for an upcoming trip. Each map serves a different and unique purpose. The best map for you will depend on your specific needs at the time. 

If you have tried any of these types of maps using WP Go Maps, let us know your thoughts and experiences with them in the comments section. We’d love to know which map you use and why!

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