THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN A ZIP CODE MAP
There are several companies in the custom ZIP Code
map market and this page demonstrates some of the key differences
between our maps and other maps that you might encounter on the
Internet. This page highlights some of the challenges that come
with the custom map production business and explains our unique
solutions to these problems. This page also explains how we are
able to produce better maps at a fraction of the cost that our
Here is a list of things to look for when comparing
Are the Cities and Towns Represented as Polygons
The vast majority of our competition sells maps that
represent each populated place (i.e. city or town) as a single point
on the map (rather than as a filled polygon that represents the area
actually covered by the populated place). Representing cities
and towns as "dots" rather than polygons is a
simplification that can be enormously misleading. Both ZIP
Code and populated place boundaries can be very messy, but the most
useful maps cleanly make sense of this "messiness" instead
of ignoring it. A single ZIP Code area may include only a tiny
part of a town, it may be fully enclosed by a town, it may fully
enclose a town, it may fully enclose multiple towns, or it may not
contain any towns... none of which you can determine when only
select populated places are represented as single "dots"
on the map. Our maps show the actual land area that cities and
towns cover, so that you can quickly see relationships between ZIP
Codes boundaries and city and town boundaries.
Representing cities and towns as "dots" is
a simplification process that has several production-side advantages
to the cartographic company (that are direct disadvantages to you as
a the purchaser):
By reducing all populated places to
"dots," it is much easier to simply "drop"
suburbs and smaller populated places. Our maps show the
areas covered by all populated places... if it has an area, then
we show it and go out of our way to label it.
By reducing all populated places to
"dots," it is possible to cover a lot of land area
without extensive production time in map cleanup (populated
places are also messy... a single town may cover several
non-contiguous areas--all of which may need to be labeled).
Label placement and the human cost associated with production
"clean-up" is a significant portion of the cost of
virtually all maps.
We have written our own raw mapping software from
scratch and are able to accurately show the areas covered by cities
and towns (regardless of their size or complexity). The index
to our maps also show the precise x,y locations and county name of
virtually all populated places drawn from the USGS Geographic Names
server (often down to the neighborhood subdivision name).
Are ALL ZIP Codes Indexed? How are they
Most companies who sell ZIP Code maps only index the ZIP Codes
that are associated with a street delivery range and do not index
ZIP Codes associated with Post Office boxes only or similar delivery
types (in some cities, as many as half of the ZIP Codes do not
appear in the index for this reason). We index all ZIP
Codes that fall within the coverage of each map with a precise x,y
coordinates that correspond with rulers that run along the top and
side of each map.
Also, most other companies provide a grid index that defines
specific square regions of the map (i.e. if you are looking for ZIP
Code 44406, go hunt for it in grid E6). Our index gives you a
precise x,y coordinate for every ZIP Code and populated place, so
you can quickly know exactly where a specific feature is located.
Do You have to Pay A Lot More for Electronic Copies of Your
All custom maps are also produced in PDF format and are
sent to you at no additional charge. For maps that you order
out of the shopping cart, electronic copies cost only a few dollars
Can You Request a Free Print Sample from Them?
Are their--or our--online previews fuzzy and you are not sure
what you are going to get? We send free print samples... at
least one free and complete ZIP Code state map and one ZIP Code
metro map to everyone who requests it using our form (linked from
the front page) so that you can get a good idea what your maps are
likely to look like. Free print samples are sent via USPS
Priority Mail (2-3 days). To the best of our knowledge, we are
the only company in the custom map market that offers this free
Do You Get Free Census Data?
Now that you know where a ZIP Code is, do you know how many
people live inside it? The number of housing units?
Average household income? Average home value? Average
age of their houses? We offer extensive free Census data for
all custom maps that we produce, and for all maps that are ordered
through our shopping cart.
Price, Quality, Production Speed, and Customizations
Producing inexpensive, fast, and high-quality custom maps is a
challenging business, in part because the average client comes with
a high degree of map literacy and brings a set of relatively high
expectations that are largely informed by road atlases or non-ZIP
Code maps that are produced thousands or millions of times over
(i.e. the Rand McNally Atlases, etc.) that cost as little as a few
dollars for an entire book of maps.
Because of this background, many clients are initially surprised
by the relatively high cost of custom ZIP Code maps. Much of
the unexpected cost can be attributed to two sources:
- All maps have to be produced... i.e. someone has to sit down
at a computer and--at least--clean up the map and prepare it for
output (if you know going in that you're going to be selling
hundreds or thousands of copies of this map, then you can afford
to spend many dozens of production hours on it). Likewise,
how can you justify spending five hours producing a map for a
single client who simply will not pay more than $60 for it?
It has been our experience that the only way to succeed in the
low-cost custom map market is to develop superior technology
that generates maps very cleanly and that require very little
production time. Our raw maps are generated using software
that we designed from scratch to maximize efficiency. This
increased efficiency allows us to produce your custom map in a
fraction of the time that it takes most competing companies
(most of our custom maps mail the same day and copies of
maps in our shopping cart mail almost immediately).
- Print and finishing costs for a single map for a single client
can be considerable and are largely unavoidable.
Like most similar companies, our business is split between fully
custom maps that we generate and produce on demand and those that we
have already produced and sell at a reduced cost. We are the
only company on the Internet that allows you to custom configure and
preview the scope of your custom map... including adjusting all four
margins as needed. We are also the only company on the
Internet that allows you to extract, assign ranges and
colors, and merge Census data with your map from all of Summary File
1 and Summary File 3 (in fact, we are the only organization outside
of the Census Bureau to replicate all of Summary File 1 and
Summary File 3 online in any format).