Finding your place in the world

Finding your place in the world

Posted on Friday, January 30th, 2009 by Richard

The whole world is going online. Literally. It started with Multimap and Streetmap, and it got a heck of a kick with Google Maps and then Google Earth. Right now as you read, the whole planet is being digitised in ever greater detail by cars, planes and satellites.

The grandiose term for these are Geographical Information Systems – GIS. And they are incredibly useful. You can find out whether your house will be underwater come the next flash flood, you can find your political representatives, or you can find your nearest bakery.

So – if you’ve got an interest in the real world, you’ll need to get your flag raised on the virtual one too. You’ll want to be listed on Google Local Business - currently rivalling the Yellow Pages as the source for information on local services. Like anything with user-created content, it can be messy. Some unscrupulous types will go to any length to hog the top spots (can you spot the spam listings here?). But list yourself, and they will come.

But there’s so much more you can do with maps, courtesy of Google -

Get a map on your website
It’s really straightforward to embed a Google map on your website showing your location. We offer that as standard to all our clients – check out this site selling ethical jewellery for an example. It lets people zoom and pan around to get the context they need, depending on how well they know your area. You don’t get that with a static image.

People love playing with maps. Men especially. If you’ve got some excuse for getting a map on your site, you should. For some businesses, like these letting agents in York, it’s obvious why you’d want one. But any excuse is a good one. We’ve recently finished setting up a site for a Yorkshire wine merchant, and we’re going to be adding to this over the new few months. One thing you’ll see on the site soon is a map showing where the vinyards are that grew the wine they sell. Select ‘Satellite Map’ and see the actual rows of vines. Doesn’t that make the wine seem more special? I know I’ll be checking to see if they’ve got any wines from the vinyards I cycled through on holiday.

I’ll blog later on some of the problems we encounter when we’re using these systems and some of the ways we get around these them.

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