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Complete Google Map customisation

Whether you want to show street directions for customers visiting your company headquarters or want to pinpoint your branch locations, adding a customised map to your website can provide useful information and extra detail for your users. Incorporating your own logo and including locations such as train stations and parking areas make it both functional and user-friendly. But that doesn’t mean it’s exciting.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways in which you can add character and creative flair to what can otherwise be somewhat dull and uninspiring.

Let’s start with what you can do within Google Maps itself.

By using Custom Maps or Maps Engine Lite (currently in beta), you can generate a map of your company branches, create a unique, stylised map for a corporate event or plan a particular route. Marking locations and routes, adding text, images, photographs and videos within Google Maps means that your map will show exactly what your audience needs whilst maintaining geographical accuracy. 

The ability to add multiple layers, upload spreadsheets of locations and change the style of the base maps with Maps Engine Lite allows for greater flexibility, and with the Google Maps API, you can embed your maps straight into your website.

Here’s how to get started

What you’ll need:

  • Google Earth installed
  • A Google account

What to do:

  1. Log into Google and click on ‘Maps’. Go to ‘My Places’ and then click ‘Create Maps’
  2. Choose a name for your map, add a description and select whether it’s to be a ‘public’ or ‘unlisted’ map. Click ‘Done’
  3. Using the search box, find a location of your choice. You can choose to view satellite, Earth, Street View, traffic, weather, terrain and so on, to get a good sense of the topography of the place, as well as adding coloured pins, icons, titles and descriptions.
  4. To add a custom icon (perhaps your company’s logo), you can click ‘Add an Icon’ and browse to the file on your computer. When you’re happy with your changes, click ‘Save to My Maps’. For further in-Google customisation, Maps Engine Lite can be found here.

This is the point at which you can leave your Google map as it is and put it onto your website or share it with a specific audience if you choose.

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The next level

But what if you don’t want your map to look like a Google map at all? If you want to take your maps to the next level, and you’ve got some design software and a knack for illustration, how about creating a super-customised version? We can’t promise that it’ll be quick or easy, but it’ll certainly look the business.

Taking screenshots of your newly-created map and saving them onto your system means that you can now start to have some fun. Simply placing the images into Adobe Illustrator or your chosen software and creating multiple layers on top allows you to trace over key routes and pinpoint specific locations, ensuring that your map remains geospatially correct. 

Then you can use design tools to draw and add details such as vector graphics of trees, houses, mountains, rivers and so on, as well as typographic elements and sections of text. When it’s looking pixel-perfect, you can remove the original Google Maps layer.

So there you have it. 

Two ways in which you can use Google’s customisation tools to create your own unique maps. Be careful, though – custom map-making is highly addictive and before you know it, you’ll be adding interactivity and having too much fun making maps to do any “real” work. You’ve been warned.

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