Reasons why you shouldn’t use Google Maps for your web site

Over the past few years google maps have become the de facto standard in finding your way around. They’ve more or less replaced paper maps for casual needs, for the Internet population.  The addition of Street View adds to their usefulness.

And increasingly google maps are replacing custom drawn location maps for web sites, especially self-made ones or ones with very small budgets.  It’s easy to see why, they’re free, reasonably up to date and easy to include.  If you are using WordPress or another blogging/CMS platform there’s probably a plugin that will let you add one to your site with a few clicks.

However, as I’ve found out numerous times looking for a restuarant via a google map included on a web site, it falls down in numverous ways.

They include :

  • Sometimes the map is too small on screen and can’t easily print it out
  • Lack of reference points
  • hard to save for offline use
  • your building is the same prominence to others

(one other point, is that they are geo-physically accurate which is good and bad)

Here’s an example of how bad it can get:

Whereas a custom drawn map can be tailored to your needs

Let’s look at an example from Ikumatsu Hotel in Kyoto:

Sure it lacks a little bit of polish but here you can see that the Hotel is prominently placed on the map, there are good reference points like the river and the exits to the stations.  It can also be easily printed out, since it is a image file or saved to a mobile phone.  One additional thing is that it is bi-lingual and you can add as many languages to it (or have different language versions) as you like.

Just for comparision I looked at the same location in google maps and this is what I was presented.

Here is some advice if you are going to be creating or commissioning your custom map:

Walk the routes
Walk from the nearest stations and make notes.  Which buildings stand out, are the traffic lights or street crossings helpful in guiding you.
Walk the routes again

This time at night, since it may look today different in the dark and there could also be safety issues.  If your intended route is unlit, then maybe you can choose an alternative route to show even if it is longer.
Test your map

Draft out your map, and hand it to a friend who has never been to your location.  Ask them to go to the place and when (if!) they get there ask them if they had any difficulties in finding the place.  Make any modifications necessary to the map.  Create the final version.
Keep on collecting feedback

Keep on asking visitors if they used your map on your web site and if they had any difficulties in finding your place. Keep on modifying your map based on their feedback.
I hope this helps you create a map that will guide your visitors and customers to your business with the utmost of ease.