Most of us think of maps simply as an aid to get from Point A to Point B. Or as something which we had to pay attention to in geography class and forget forever after that. But to web designers, maps can mean much more. Designers can use a map in many imaginative ways to make striking websites.
Maps have crossed over from being boring drawings in your geography class to being part of fun and interactive aids. Maps can be searched, sorted and filtered. Geolocation, street views, tooltips, popups, directions and cluster marking are all helpful in adding features to your website.
Google Maps is widely used on the web and, by itself, it comes chock filled with features. Even so, instead of downloading Google Maps and adding it to your website as such, you could customize it to benefit your visitors. There are external resources like Snazzy Maps that you can turn to for styling the maps. You can also use any other map you like.
Many plugins are available for WordPress websites to add value to Google maps. Some of them are referred to in this article to demonstrate the possible ways in which maps can add value to your website. To know more about individual plugins, have a look at our previous post on the Best Mapping Plugins for WordPress.
Some ideas that you could use are presented here. None of them are actual game changers – they are simply different ways of displaying information. But when adopted by a website, they can gain favor with users and perhaps even boost conversions a bit. Let’s look at some ways in which you can be innovative with maps on your website!
Make Maps Your Homepage
Make maps the very center of your website and organize all information related to your website around it. Transnational corporations, philanthropic organizations, a network of servers, almost anybody who has a worldwide presence or interests across the globe can adopt this approach.
At each location, showcase the achievements of that center and the team behind it. Special tidbits or important information can be highlighted in the accompanying legends.
In the image you can see the activities and progress of NGO Aid Map displayed in map format in the homepage. NGO Aid Map is an initiative of InterAction, an alliance of of nongovernmental organizations in Washington, D.C. The information related to all the projects of the organization can be accessed simply by clicking on the markers in the map.
Using a single image you’ll achieve two purposes – flaunting the worldwide reach of your outfit on the one hand, and helping users grasp the global nature of your organization on the other.
Travel Websites and Blogs
Travel websites and blogs cannot do without maps. Use maps in innovative ways to take visitors on a virtual tour of the sites to help them decide on a trip. Or coax them into a journey by plotting local attractions with information packed legends. Share information about favorite spots or places. Perhaps The London Pass, the sightseeing pass for London can inspire you.
While on a trip, a tourist / travel blogger can use a map to add photos to locations that they visit. Link them to the specific places and share with friends and family. Clicking on a marker can show a picture taken at that location.
You can also add the photos date-wise to keep a chronological track of your trip – a kind of ‘where I was, where I will be’ record.
Travel Bloggers can geotag their posts, and posts can be plotted along the route taken. This will serve as a travel diary for a trip. Regular and quick updates to the blog can keep followers updated on the progress made by the blogger. To know more on how to start a blog about your adventures, check out ourtips to create an amazing travel blog.
If you have multiple stores across the country or world, you can pinpoint them on a map with a marker and use it as a Store Locator. Add details for each location in a tooltip or popup, allow filtering by categories or prices or distance, and help customers find the store they need.
If the plugin allows adding clusters to locations where markers are dense, it will convey to the viewer that he has a choice of stores available to him in that locality.
The above is an image of Levi’s Store Locator. The store nearest to the user can be found by applying the filters. Check out Mapify.it or Super Store Finder for WordPress for using maps as a store locator.
Locate Parking Lots
If you are based in a busy location where traffic is crazy heavy and parking hard to find, try using maps on your website to help users find parking slots more easily. If you’re planning a trip to Disneyland, the map below should help you find parking space with ease.
Add this feature to your contact page, and list the available parking options around your location. For a retail store, large hospital, entertainment center, transport department or university, adding this feature would be a really thoughtful touch. If the store has reserved parking space nearby, that can be highlighted in the map as well.
I did find one plugin – Parkopedia plugin – in the WordPress repository that can help you with this, though it has been last updated a year ago.
Making maps the centerpiece of your website works well for a location based listing directory too. Business listings, real estate listings, almost any classified activity can adopt this design. The theme used should allow you to control your own listings and map details through custom post type functions.
Plugins like Sabai Directory come with fully interactive maps. You can add listing details that show up on hovering over the marker. Search results can be refreshed when the user drags the map and autocomplete feature means less typing in by the user. The user always has the option to switch back to list view.
Many plugins allow you to display listings in map view. Add 360° view images to display real estate listings. The maps can also be tailored to suit community driven local business directories.
Maps can be a blessing for a website conducting events across multiple locations and venues – be it a gala at a local school event or something as massive as the Olympics. Attendees can view the events in Map view.
EventON is a pretty much standard plugin to do the job. Use it to display event locations and directions. Users can type the address to get directions. They can keep track of an event and it’s location. When users click on a marker in the map they can see the title, place and time related to event in info window. You can also provide a link for visitors to buy tickets.
If it is a subscription based website that you own, use Google maps to show the location and density of your registered users.
It may be a good idea to also show the number of currently online logged in users. Real time visitor count from different regions that is visible to other users can prompt many more from those regions to sign up. This subtle hard sell has the potential to increase your subscriptions by a notch or two.
Some More Ideas
The most obvious use for a map is adding it to the contact page to show your location and the directions to reach you. Allow visitors to use their map location as the starting or ending point for the directions.
Niche websites can also use maps in fancy ways:
- A logistics website or a rent-a-car website or one that guides tourists on local attractions can use maps to determine distance between two points and charting out the shortest route. Mark out areas on the map where door delivery is undertaken. Detours, searching for places along the route, spots where a driver can take a break can all be plotted for benefit of website users.
- To make posts more relatable to readers, bloggers can associate them with a place on the map. This can be done by associating map locations with your existing categories and tags. Use Map My Posts so readers can zero in on location specific posts. Clicking on a post marker shows a customizable summary of the post or page in an info window.
- Relate the stories attached to various places on a map. Newspaper or magazine websites often use maps to provide context to the story they are reporting.
- Taxi companies can give an option to their customers to calculate fare and see the route on Google map.
- If the weather is your business, weather forecasts and prevailing weather can be featured on a map.
- A gaming website can incorporate location-based screengrabs and videos to give a real feel to the game to gaming enthusiasts.
So, you see maps need not be dull boring affairs that you refer to only when you are lost. You can use them in many creative and resourceful ways to add utility and verve to your websites. Do you have more examples of maps used with WordPress? We’d love to hear about it – just leave us a comment below.