Should You Build Your Interactive Map With Google Map Maker?
Jody Benedict’s best-in-track presentation at HEWEB11, Mapping Campus with Google Map Maker, was a standout presentation. It got many attenedees thinking about how they could use Google’s Map Maker to keep their map of campus updated for online viewers. Jody also did a great job of sharing guidelines for using Google Map Maker last month on The Link.
As we reported in a recent article over 70% of online map usage is on Google Maps so it is definitely a good idea to make sure that your information with them is correct. The question still remains is this a “good enough” solution for an interactive campus map? Obviously we are a little biased, but it’s still a very good question to dissect the pros and cons.
Pros of Google Map Maker
There are a lot of good reasons to go with this approach so let’s look at a few.
- The Price Is Right – If you don’t consider your time a price then Google is a free solution. Even leveraging their API’s for higher ed doesn’t cost anything.
- Great for Location/GPS – All of the lat/long data is already in the system which allows you to do some interesting wayfinding functionality.
- Getting Directions Is Easy – Similar to leveraging GPS knowledge it isn’t much additional work to allow people to get direction to campus or buildings as part of this offering.
- Building On Google Will Help You Get Found – Remember Google also runs that gigantic search engine that most of us use. So any extra data that your provide them helps them better find you. This might be enough of a reason to load a bunch of this data in here even if you don’t go with this solution.
Cons of Google Map Maker
So we have talked about a lot of the good reasons, but let’s look at some of the negatives.
- Time is Money – To build a strong interactive map still requires some time from you.
- You Might Need Development Resources – Also to really do something interesting you are probably going to be forced to do some custom map development work with their APIs.
- Not Always Marketing Friendly – From a marketing standpoint you might be trying to get prospective students to want to view campus. A real map or satellite imagery can’t hide the trailer park adjacent to campus, construction or any other unsightly visuals that a map illustration can remove. One of the biggest reasons for a map illustration is because it can create angles and distort distances to make your map fit into friendly dimensions.
- Limitations of customization – Although we just discussed the need for custom development this still doesn’t mean that you have complete creative control over markers and stops on the map. One example is I’ve heard that the category selection is quite limited in Google Map Maker.
- Outdated Satellite Imagery – Have you recently added or removed buildings from campus? There is a good chance that Google Maps doesn’t reflect this. In fact we have commonly heard from schools that even after two years the satellite imagery isn’t showing new buildings. From a marketing standpoint your new construction is a big selling point for your institution and not being able to show that off is a major problem. Satellite imagery will probably never be realtime or always updating because of the security risks associated with this.
- You’re Campus Information Could Be Outdated – Just like the previous reason, depending on the last time Google has satellite imagery of your campus or how roads have changed you might be started at a disadvantage. Of course that is exactly what Google Map Maker is for right!? Also watch out for your campus all being at one address.
- Anyone Can Edit Your Map – Google Map Maker essentially turns Google Maps into a public wiki where anyone can make edits and submit changes. For something like your campus map you can probably see how this could be a bad thing.
As you can see the more we get into the cons around development then we are talking about an interactive map that isn’t really Google Map Maker but more of a custom development solution leverages Google Maps API. APIs are great for the instant access to powerful data, but it doesn’t magically provide you exactly what you want without some manipulation work.
Although Google Maps are a competitor, we still believe that it can be the right solution for the right school. If there isn’t a budget for an interactive map/virtual tour then it becomes the perfect solution. With such a large part of the web relying on this data regularly it also isn’t something that you can completely ignore either. Personally I would rather have something more marketing focused leveraging a map illustration, better styled stops, lots of of my own unique content and much more control. As I mentioned at the beginning, I’m obviously biased though.
Are you not convinced Google Map Maker is the right solution for your website either? Schedule a free consultation and let’s talk about nuCloud can help you create a custom interactive map or virtual tour to meet your needs.
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