Ontario Parks has recently updated their website to incorporate Google Maps. After exploring the new “locate parks by region” function and associated Google Maps I checked out other provinces' park websites to see how they do things. I am comparing the Ontario Parks site vs. Manitoba Parks site in terms ease of use/type of use by end-users and the likely resource costs (hardware, software purchases, app development, employee training) in developing these sites.
Manitoba Parks uses a point and click mapping interface similar to the Google map associated with the Ontario parks website. The Manitoba site starts with an image map and after clicking an icon the link to that particular park's website is provided. Manitoba has each park map scanned and available on the website. It takes a bit of time to download a pdf file even after you have spent some time locating the document. The park map is helpful information once you have reached the park but I have no idea how to get to any of these parks from my house or how long it will take. For users with no familiarity with Manitoba, (eg. me) it is difficult to understand where to locate the map I'm currently looking at.
Users are likely to be more familiar with a Google map found on the Ontario Parks page. With a Google map you can zoom out until you find something familiar to contextualize what region of the world you are observing.
Developing these sites brings up other issues. Once a developer learns the basics of Google maps it is easy to manipulate the API to fit the needs of the site. Embedding a Google map into your website is free. The Manitoba site likely needed a cartographer or graphic designer to create the map using expensive software like Adobe Illustrator, then require a programmer to make the map clickable and maintain the data. At the simplest level, a site like Ontario's on the other hand only needs one neogeographer, an Internet connection and website host to be functional.
I know it sounds like I have definitely drank too much of the Google juice but I am relieved to see that some standardization practices are developing. End users and programmers alike have developed some practices that are becoming more widely used and ease manipulation and navigation. Ontario Parks offers multiple avenues of searching for the park that most closely fits the needs of the visitor. They may not do it in the most straightforward way but the user can search for a park by name, location or service offered by the park. Google Maps offers the icing on the cake on this site (if you can find the small map link) with door to park driving directions. GIScientists see the geoweb as having infinite possibilities for storing and distributing data, however most users continue to use it to find out how to get from point A (their house) to point B (summer vacation destination).