Being able to show people where things are on a map has become increasingly important as online mapping has improved. With the rise of services such as Google Maps and Microsoft Live Search Maps it has become relatively simple to send someone a map of a location and even directions on how to get there, which has increased the perceived value and has thereby increased the value of mapping and so on.
But setting up maps particularly complex ones for business use is still somewhat daunting. A new service has appeared that aims to simplify this task: Google Map Builder.
The map building process is straightforward. Google Map Builder allows you to upload information to be mapped in an Excel spreadsheet; a comma, tab, or pipe delimited text file; an HTML table; or an XML file. The data must include street address and ZIP code, and you can include the URLs of pictures and text to be shown in a popup bubble when your map flags (or circles) the locations that are clicked on.
You can optionally specify search boxes to make your mapped locations findable and add HTML to format your content and add text, pictures, and links. When you have finished you click on the “build it” link and then paste the HTML code that the service outputs into your site.
Conceptually Google Map Builder is a great idea but I found two issues with the service. First, on the demos page I selected the first example, “Jane Carter Solution”. This is a pretty ugly implementation that is broken! At the top left of the page there's a list of lines all reading “Google was not able to geocode this address” while the map itself is huge and runs off the bottom of the page. Not impressive.
The next demo I looked at was “New York Best Deals”, which is simply an ugly site with the map buried at the end of the page. Curiously, if you click on a hotel listing and then on the link that reads “Click Here for Birdseye View” you are taken to a non-functioning Microsoft Live Maps page!
The final example I looked at before my patience ran out was “Stylfile” which simply 404’ed!
Guys, if you are going to provide examples choose them to show what you do clearly and effectively. A set of demos like this doesn’t inspire confidence.
My other issue is price. The One Day Package provides “Unlimited access to upload files and build maps for 1 day” for $39.95, while the Basic Package provides “unlimited access to build and update your locations … [and] save[s] your settings” for $25 per month. The Gold Seal Realtor Package provides “automatic MLS download, map configuration, and upload to your site daily, including pictures.” There’s an unspecified one time set up fee and it costs $99 per month.
The pricing seems rather high to me and that may make Google Map Builder vulnerable to competitive services.
So bottom line: Good idea, less than stellar execution.