I am playing with the idea of building a Basic Web based GIS system for a charity. The problem:

I work for a charity that deals with people with Cleft Palates. They currently have a website, but need individuals to contact them to identify which branches of health teams / services / charities they have access to.

I am wanting to develop an open sourced system that allows a user to enter a Zip / Postcode, and for a list of the organizations that cater for there area to be produced.

Because this is a small charity finances are tight, so it has to be free / open source.

Hence i am doing the leg work.

I can digitise all the boundaries in question into .shp files. Also i can probably develop the front end.

Thanks in Advance


Leaflet is an open-source library using javascript for interactive maps. There is plenty of documentation available online. Leaflet is also commonly used in conjunction with Mapbox and TileMill. I would also look into ArcGIS online as the interface is very userfriendly -however I would look into if you need to pay for a subscription for your organization.

A few other alternatives would be CartoDB and GISCloud


GeoDjango will give you a python web server framework for spatial queries (and a lot more besides). Then you can create URLs like /services/nearest&pc=w1a2aa and return a response page of nearest services to that postcode.

The spatial data is stored in a spatial database on the server - you might get away with using SpatiaLite (the spatial version of SQLite) but if the database is being updated by more than one person you probably need PostGIS (the spatial extension of PostgreSQL).

You didn't say you wanted to produce a map (only a list) but if you do, then leaflet.js or openlayers are the mainstream tools for open source web slippy maps. You can integrate these with GeoDjango.

The other thing you will need is a GeoCoder to convert postal codes into lat-long coordinates. Lots of these exist, whether you can use them or not depends on your country...


I would say that MapBox.js API is the best option for you, it's build on top of Leaflet and there are a lot of examples provided on MapBox's site.

You can prepare your raw data by using QGIS, which is an open source desktop GIS software, and save the shapefile you prepared as a GeoJSON file, in that case, you can easily display the GeoJSON file on you web mapping app without having any kind of map server.

Here is an example from MapBox about how to display and query a GeoJSON layer, it shows functions that are very similar to what you asked.

Hope it helps.


It's $100/yr subscription, but ArcGIS for Home Use gives you the Advanced license version of Arc with most extensions, and is licensed to be ok to use for non-profit, volunteer work. Nothing commercial though.

  • 2
    "Because this is a small charity finances are tight, so it has to be free / open source." – DPSSpatial Jun 2 '14 at 16:46
  • 1
    $100 a year is WAY CHEAPER than paying a developer!!! – Jasmine Jun 2 '14 at 20:36
  • True, $100 is relatively inexpensive. But there are cheaper/free alternatives that may not require a developer (or OP may be skilled in Javascript, HTML5, etc) – GISKid Jun 3 '14 at 13:04

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