Let’s start with this simple statement—there is no such thing as a perfect mapping platform. Whether it be ArcGIS, StoryMaps, Google MyMaps, Omeka, or even Carto, there will always be pros and cons to each. With that, I’d like to take some time to talk about my overall experience with Carto, what I hated, and what I loved:
What I Hate About Carto
While Carto gives off the impression of being extremely user-friendly and accessible to novices in the DH, it’s secretly out to murder every hope you had of getting that perfect map you wanted when you first started the project. I’ve changed my image of my map somewhere in the ballpark of 10 times throughout this semester, and most of the time it’s out of sheer frustration of what I though Carto could do, but actually can’t do. Like many other mapping softwares, Carto has serious issues with displaying multiple points on one GPS location. In situations where there are more than one point, it will allow the user to see only the top point, and does not allow the user to see anything below it. It seems as though this is solvable through a technique known as spidering, but after about 3-4 hours of tinkering around with it, I came to realize you need to be adept at coding to be able to be competent. This was a common theme throughout my experience with Carto, and it made me really frustrated that I had absolutely no experience with coding.
What I Love About Carto
This is fairly easy for me to answer. What I love most about Carto is far and away the design interface. Out of all the mapping platforms, Carto is the most sleek and easy to make look well-made. I particularly enjoyed the level of customizability in terms of appearance, and spent quite a bit of time seeing all the ways I could represent my data visually. This said, customization does come with its limits, as in order to get into more complicated visual aspects, coding experience is required.
So, in the end, what I learned from Carto is that if I want to be a truly successful digital cartographer, I need to start taking coding classes. In the meantime, I’ll just keep fiddling with the appearance of my maps in the hopes I have a sudden cartographical revelation.