One of the things I've noticed is that most organizations are providing really basic store/branch/site locators with their websites.  For most of these locations it means that

  • There is no immediate recognition of of the site relative to the end user
  • Reading and comprehension is harder meaning more effort is required by the user to translate the location, leading to inaccuracies and ultimately reduced customer satisfaction
  • Often the user wont know the street (particularly in cities) meaning the address is a non starter
  • Evenif they know the street numbers are hard to figure out - particularly on long streets/roads
  • Once the user comprehends the location they need to figure out how to get there as quickly as possible.

Having a dynamic map (such as Virtual Earth) can fix these issues in a single, simple solution and for no cost!

The simplest way to create a store locator without making large modifications to the existing site is to create a hyperlink that opens a window with a map inside it.

Take for example the following store location:

Lambton Quay Branch
157 Lambton Quay,
Wellingotn,
New Zealand

In this case you've got the name of the branch and the address right there.  If you combine the address into the following hyperlink you get something that virtual earth can understand.  Go to www.windowslivelocal.com and in the second box at the top enter the address and hit enter as shown in the picture above

You may want to rename the location (hover over the address and select "Edit" from the flyout menu).  Next you'll want to copy the link to the clipboard as shown.  This will put a hyperlink into the clipboard.  You can test this by pasting it into the address bar of the browser. 

Once you've got that link its just a matter of adding a hyper link to the text.  The above example would mean the following link:

<a 
href="http://local.live.com/?v=2&sp=Point.83kn85zjy5n3_Lambton%20Quay%20Branch___"
target="_blank">Lambton Quay Branch</a>

Thats it!  Now when someone clicks the link they will be directed to Windows Live Local with a push pin showing what it is that you are trying to show them.  They can then get driving directions and find their way to your store much more easily.

This is obviously not the perfect scenario, as you are sending customers to a site that is not branded with your brand and that you have no control over, but its an easy to implement sample that gives more detail than no map.

Next I'll show how you can add your branding to the map thats shown.