The ultimate guide to building engaging digital map experiences

From understanding user expectations to evaluating solutions, this guide covers everything you need to navigate the $64 billion digital map market. Get insights into the future of mapping technologies and how they're shaping immersive, personalised experiences for users worldwide.
Ellen Wilkinson
March 2024

Paper printouts and static PDF maps no longer cut it. Digital mapping has fully eclipsed more traditional navigation as guests seek out interactive, immersive features like route planning and real-time information. 

Valued at USD $21.95 billion in 2022, the digital map market is expected to reach USD $63.93 billion by 2030. Providing interactivity, accessibility and personalisation, SaaS solutions for digital mapping engage guests in a way static maps never could. 

In this guide, we’ll explore what users want from the digital map experience, review some available mapping tools and what we can expect from the future of digital mapping. Let’s dig in.

Charting the course: Understanding user expectations for digital maps

With widespread mobile adoption and 67% of smartphone owners already using navigation apps, an interactive, digital map is no longer a nice-to-have; it's a need-to-have. For location-based businesses, digital maps aren’t just useful for helping guests orient themselves; they provide a more engaging guest experience. These are the MVP features that guests expect from digital maps:


A simple static map of your venue is no longer enough for guests who are used to interactive navigation. They expect various map layers that provide routes, data and points of interest. From panning and zooming to turn-by-turn wayfinding, digital maps should put guests in the driver’s seat so they can make the most of their experiences.

Real-time data

The popularity of driving apps with real-time traffic built-in have led to guest expectations for real-time data across the board. For entertainment venues and amusement parks, features like heat maps can determine the size of crowds and enable you to direct guests to less busy attractions, helping them avoid long wait times.

Mapping software with personalisation features


According to a recent McKinsey survey, 71% of consumers expect personalised interactions with businesses and brands. Digital maps give you an opportunity to surface personalised recommendations for guests, when they are combined with a dedicated mobile app platform. For example, you can show guests the locations that are relevant to them, such as restaurants that cater to certain dietary restrictions or age-appropriate attractions for their family. Even better, routes can be personalised for accessibility, providing wheelchair- and stroller-optimised itineraries.

Immersive elements

One interesting result of the pandemic and related lockdowns is a greater interest in blended digital/real-world experiences that help users feel a part of the action, no matter where they are. Elements like visualised route previews and illustrations on top of satellite imagery drop guests in the middle of your venue, whether they’re scoping out attractions from the entrance or planning their visits from home.

Advances in GIS applications and GPS technology, combined with easy access via mobile devices, means that users expect a lot from the digital mapping experience. Location-based businesses need to pay special attention to these expectations as they seek to build deeper connections with guests.

Reviewing all routes: Evaluating digital mapping solutions

When adopting app components, the question is always whether to build or to buy. For digital mapping, building from the ground up means a hefty upfront investment in engineering and UX design, not to mention months of development work. On the other hand, out-of-the-box solutions may feel like a ham-fisted, one-size-fits-all approach. The trick is finding a software development kit (SDK) that is easy to implement, integrates with your existing tech stack and meets brand requirements by way of customisation capabilities. Of course, cost and user experience are also important factors in selecting a mapping tool.

Many immediately think of traditional options like Google Maps and Apple Maps when evaluating wayfinding solutions for their businesses. However, these apps were built for road use, and they don’t support custom wayfinding, nor do they offer map tiling or map hosting services. Options to select accessible routes are rare and branding opportunities are slim, which means your map can stick out like a sore thumb in an otherwise beautifully branded mobile app or website.

Newer solutions on the market that try to address these user experience challenges. MapBox, for instance, has beautiful functionality when it comes to providing tiles and rendering maps. But, when it's time to put it all together, your only option is to use additional open-source tools for routes and wayfinding. It is also quite costly, and the pricing structure can be complicated. 

For location-based businesses, the mapping solutions available until now have been imperfect—which is exactly why we built MapLayr.

MapLayr mapping technology

Reaching our destination: Why MapLayr?

At, we weren't satisfied with the digital mapping solutions on the market, so we built our own. MapLayr leverages the wayfinding engine that powers the mapping experience for’s mobile app platform, used by millions of guests worldwide at venues like Merlin Entertainments’ theme parks, The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and Butlin’s resorts. As a toolkit available to add to your custom mobile app, MapLayr is purpose-built for pedestrian wayfinding at attractions and experiences, making it the optimal solution for resorts, parks and attractions.

As a fully white-labelled solution, MapLayr is easy to integrate with your existing mobile app and gives you complete control of the look and feel of your maps, so you can create digital maps that are beautifully on-brand. To get started, you simply add a package dependency and plug in your API key. It requires minimal coding, so developers can focus on the user experience by adding custom shapes, illustrations and extensible annotations.

Our solution uses vector tiles, which deliver spatial data in small, pre-rendered amounts. This means that maps load faster, have a better resolution and can be customised client-side. And, as far as features go, we like to think that we have everything a location-based business and their guests could need, including:

  • Over-the-air updates for routes and illustrations
  • Tilting, rotating and zooming
  • Dynamic wayfinding for instant directions and walk times between two points or more
  • Route variations for guests with accessibility needs
  • The ability to categorise points of interest so guests can filter and search
  • Smooth and curved paths to mimic real environments
  • Dynamic lighting that adjusts in real time for day or night
  • Immersive realistic water reflections
  • The ability to send guests customised offers and promotions based on location
  • Full offline availability so that guests can use all features, even without internet connectivity

Our friction-free wayfinding reduces printing by up to 95%, saves thousands and helps you go green, all while creating an immersive, more engaging guest experience.

Cedar Fair digital map builders and agency

Rave reviews along the way

Some of the world’s top parks, resorts and attractions have already adopted MapLayr for their wayfinding needs, including Cedar Fair. 

Known for their record-breaking coasters and award-winning water parks, Cedar Fair previously had an app that got users from point A to B but, in their own words, didn’t enhance the overall guest experience. They needed something to wow guests with interactive map features, on-point branding and superior functionality. Most importantly, the solution had to scale across all of their properties, with 13 different maps to match the atmosphere of 13 different parks. So, when they relaunched their mobile app in 2024, they chose to build their wayfinding solution with MapLayr’s SDK.

With MapLayr, Cedar Fair’s interactive digital maps provide guests with a fully branded experience. Guests get turn-by-turn directions, along with the ability to rotate, zoom and tilt the map to suit their search preferences. Thanks to this new functionality and design, exit surveys repeatedly rank the maps and wayfinding as one of the highest-scoring features of Cedar Fair's new mobile app platform.

Next stop: The future

Even as we meet current user expectations, technological innovation and further customer demand are driving new and exciting trends in digital mapping. Some of these up-and-coming trends include: 

MapLayr indoor positioning SDK

Indoor positioning

Indoor mapping is becoming increasingly popular, especially in public spaces like airports and shopping malls. Using technologies like beacons, Wi-Fi, radio-frequency identification and geomagnetic systems, indoor positioning allows guests to easily navigate large buildings and access services and amenities within.

Augmented reality

Driven, in part, by the gaming industry, AR integration is transforming the way information is displayed, and that is true in the digital mapping arena. AR overlays can now show areas of interest and navigation cues in real time to improve engagement and location awareness.

3D rendering

From terrain mapping to architectural models, 3D images provide more realistic views to help map users get the lay of the land. And, much like AR, 3D technology creates an immersive experience that makes digital maps all the more engaging.

Artificial intelligence

AI’s ability to analyse enormous amounts of data is driving advanced features in digital mapping. These include predictive routing, automated map updates and the ability to provide personalised recommendations – all of which can result in a more satisfying user experience.

MapLayr already has the capabilities to handle multi-level positioning, as well as immersive effects like textured, reflective surfaces and dynamic day-to-night lighting. As we look to the future, we’re exploring the possibility of indoor mapping and rendering buildings in 3D, not to mention our constant push for slicker wayfinding and more advanced layer effects. We’ll continue to keep an eye on emerging technology to ensure we’re well-positioned to provide a scalable solution for tomorrow’s mapping needs.

Ready to learn more? Book a meeting to find out how MayLayr can power up your app’s wayfinding capabilities.

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Ellen Wilkinson

Head of Marketing
March 2024
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