Friday, 27 February 2009

Can a map make a valid website navigation tool?

After recent discussions about site structure and navigation, it hit me that we are possibly missing a trick with one of our apps, with the potential to be as valid a navigation tool as a menu, A-Z or search box.

Im talking about our online map. Its a tasty bit of kit, where we can easily add layers of information based on a type of service, building, facility, sport - whatever is useful really. You can view the map at

Now, this might be going out on a limb but could the map be used as a way to search for service information, things you find useful - with the added bonus of showing you where they are in relation to transport links, your home, and providing some sort of direction about how local to you the services are.

By linking map entries to service pages, and visa versa, you are providing people with the ability to find whats close to them (using common headings) and then providing them with a one click way of getting more details about the service.

It's unlikely that this would be as popular, or well used as a search box. Especially without some major changes in user habits and major promotion of the tool in itself. But i think there is (at least some limited) potential there. Giving people something visual to look at, a map, a picture, you are providing them with a greater connection to where services are locally, and how to access them, instead of just words they scan on a page.

In addition, the map itself should not be limited to services in our council. It should provide details of things like hospitals, pharmacies, leisure facilities etc in neighbouring councils. Service users dont care which is run by their council and which isn't. They aren't going to go to a different park becuase it's the right side of an imaginary line, they just wnat to see what is close to where they live. This is doubly true for the hospitals list where people will get sent to regardless of its proximity to home location.

Anyway, I havent thought too in depth about this, just thought it might be something for you to chew on....comments and ideas as always please :) just avoid puns about maps and navigation (i know, i know).

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