CLEAR Research

Maps on the Web

The Google Maps API

Pros/Cons Pros: A free way to access Google Maps imagery and support to display unlimited amounts of information. Almost entirely customizable to best serve your target audience!

Cons: Unlike Google Maps My Maps and Google Earth's use of KMZs, coding is required. Sure, coding is scary - customization will require some guts, but not necessarily coding masters. Access to your webpage and a web design/coding software is also needed, like Dreamweaver.
Required in order to Create Website editing program (ie. Dreamweaver), Google Account, Google Maps API key, datasource to add to map (ie. KML).
Know-how Necessary Some coding is necessary (javescript and html), and experience editing webpages, but you do not really need to be a programmer or web designer to make it work.
Cost Free in cost, not in time
Required to Use (besides the internet and a browser) Familiarity with Google Maps is all that is required (pan, zoom, click)
CT Example Friends of East Rock Park

Google Maps API

The Google Maps API allows to you further customize your mashup, using Google's mapping imagery and tools. Unlike Google Maps My Maps, you do not necessarily have a limit on the data you display on the maps and you have many more options for design, display, and interaction.

The Google Maps API is accessible with a key assigned to you during registration. With the key, your code is allowed to talk with Google Maps, creating your mashup!


Coding sounds intimidating, but don't get overwhelmed! With a few vocabulary words and lots of online documentation, you will be able to build a useful Google Maps mashup. You can edit the base maps, the markets, the balloons, and even allow users to add a new marker to your map. Google has many examples of what you can do.

Visit our activity and code help page to become more comfortable with the Google Maps API.

Is it really worth facing all that code?

Yes, definitely. Here's an example. The Connecticut NEMO program and the California Center for Water & Land Use have partnered to create a NEMO Network-wide Low Impact Development project map. Using the Google Maps API as the base map application, data is added to the map from a database of LID sites. The database is populated from an online form. NEMO Network members are able to login and add their projects to the map as well as send their audience members to the map's webpage. This project is a good example of the advanced customization (dynamic, user-input data) that you can do with Google Maps API. Be sure to check it out!

Do It Yourself

Activity Link

This Google Maps API activity steps through how to register for a Google Maps API key and add it to your webpage, how to customize the map with basic coding, and where to go in search of more help and ideas!