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Google Maps

Providing directions, highlighting outlets, selling property, highlighting tourist spots / places to visit, showing coverage or service areas are some of the applications that some of our clients use Google Maps for.  

But what is Google Maps?  Google Maps is a free service (provided by Google) that allows you to embed an interactive map on your website.  Google Maps also runs well on all major browsers and operating systems.

On this map you can pinpoint a number of locations using a series of markers.  You can also embed a series of controls into the map allowing visitors to your site to zoom in, zoom out, scroll left and scroll right on this map, making it a extremely valuable tool. 

You can also draw / embed images on this map (i.e. if you service a given area) you could use Google Maps to highlight with a circle which areas you service.  You can even have multiple areas with different call out rates (e.g. area 1 - $50 callout, area 2 - $100 call out).

So how do you go about getting Google Maps?

  1. Talk to your web developer about implementing Google Maps (If you''re pretty technical and understand the basics behind JavaScript you can give it a go yourself)
  2. Signup for a Google Maps Key (note if you use the straight "iframe" version, you don't need this).
  3. Google will then provide code that needs to be embedded into your website.
  4. Customise the map to how you want (the sky is the limit!)

The only time you will need to pay for Google Maps is if the service on your website is not free to the public (i.e. if you were charging your customer a monthly fee to access an online application that included Google Maps as part of it , you would need to discuss licensing costs with Google).

Drawbacks. 
Basically there are none, but if a user doesn't have JavaScript installed (or turned off - this is very unlikely these days) the map won't run.  Possibly the only thing that may be an issue (and it's a minor one), on all maps provided by Google - they have embedded a small logo, however for the rich functionality of this service I think they deserve a bit of credit.

Overall Google Maps is a great tool that integrates well with a variety of applications.  Also as more sites use Google Maps, users are going to become more familiar with how to use this wonderful technology.