We just released a new project called MIX Maps. It’s a central place to see all the mapping the Microfinance Information Exchange team is doing, showing the location and activities of financial institutions in the context of other social layers like poverty, internet access, unemployment, literacy rates, and dozens of other indicators. Each country profiled has its own full screen data browser, which allows for trying out different layers of financial and contextual data for analysis. The data is all open too, so each profile has notes on the data’s sourcing and processing, as well as download links.

MIX Maps hompage

Over the last year, MIX - a resource for information about the financial sector in the developing world - has built full screen map browsers showcasing its exclusive subnational data in places like Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, and coming soon Afghanistan.

How we built it

For this project, we used the MapBox map site templates with a new Jekyll-based template. We built a few layouts for the country profiles that matched what we used to build individually for MIX projects. Then we built a new homepage that aggregates all the profiles dynamically. It pulls in key information like title, location, and the default map layers from each profile, adds markers to a global map on the homepage, and builds thumbnails of each map with its default layers using the MapBox Static API.

Using a Jekyll site makes it easy for the MIX team to set up their own country profiles too. What used to involve custom web development by our team is now handed off completely to the MIX data team. By filling out some metadata fields, selecting a layout, and entering content about each profile, they can take the maps maps they’re making in TileMill and add them to the MIX Maps portal with no additional development. If MIX decides they want a new custom layout for a specific profile, setting it up is as easy as copying an existing HTML template and modifying it.

Using Prose.io as the editor for MIX Maps means anyone with access can modify content and set up new country profiles through a clean web-based interface. Authentication and file management is handled through GitHub’s API, so version control and GitHub Pages hosting is all built in.

Prose screenshot

We’ve put together a simple workflow for MIX to take over producing their own map sites using open source and freely available tools like the MapBox Map Site templates and Prose.io, backed up by GitHub, the new standard for managing code and the development process. MIX now has complete control of their mapping projects without needing development assistance from us, freeing them to focus their time and resources on data analysis.

We find this CMS-free approach to building dynamic sites very exciting and scalable. We look forward to pursuing it on more projects where simplicity and flexibility are key features, and we thank MIX for their support of open source development.

We're a team of engineers and designers working on big projects. We believe in open source and in building for lasting impact.

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