WTF Blog Clutter: Where Are You?

Filed as Guides on August 11, 2008 12:29 pm

We talked about whether or not to show the weather on your blog. Now, it’s time to talk maps in our ongong series on WTF Blog Design Clutter.

Maps have come a long with with the advancements of Google Maps and Yahoo! Maps, especially with the integration of satellite maps and introduction of Google Earth where you can actually see where you are going or want to go. Or where you live. Online maps make the world closer and smaller, and they can make your blog more personal.

Is it important to have a map of where you live or work or play on your blog?

Maps Tell The World Where You Are and How to Get There

Many love telling the world where they live and sharing maps of the area because it hearkens back to the days when the first questions in first impression meetings were “Where do you work? Where do you live?” We want to answer the “where” up front in our blogs, so we often showcase where we live by our words, stories, and maps.

If you are blogging about your neighborhood or region, then it is very important and gives a perspective to your readers on your location and blog topics. When you write about finding an unusual migrant bird while exploring a nearby park, readers will want to know where the park is and where you are in proximity to their location. Maps are excellent aids when they support the overall purpose of the blog.

Should maps be within the blog’s design or within the blog post? If you don’t often write about bird watching, then adding a map for a one time event isn’t worth it. Put the map within the post to match the content with the geographical information.

However, if your location is critical to your blog, if you are blogging about a specific location, region, events, and activities, then maps are very important to showcase on your blog and should get center stage play and not be buried at the bottom of your sidebar. Or maybe it isn’t as important and deserves to be put on a specific Page, like your Contact Page, to help people get to where you are if they need to visit you directly.

If your location is important to who you are, as a person, blogger, or part of your brand identity and finding customers within a specific area, then you don’t need a map in your sidebar as much as you need driving directions to your location and visible hints of the area you cover.

Add these to your Profile, About Page, or sidebar purpose statement such as “I’m a real estate broker in Portland, Oregon, who loves long bike rides, commutes to work by bike, and believes that the best home is a green home.” A real estate broker who blogs may blog about her business, but she may also be blogging about her hobby, bicycling, and making a personal statement about herself and her hobbies within the area she lives. Her location is a reflection of her lifestyle. Does it deserve a map? Only if you intend on visiting her in person. What kind of map? If she blogs about her business, then a map of her territory is helpful, but if she blogs about her passion for bicycling, then maps for bike trails and routes would be better.

When Google Maps came out with the satellite images, people went nuts with maps. Google Earth caused even more map madness. Some bloggers were using their cell phones to update their map locations on their blogs showing the world where they are every minute of the day. Celebrity watchers turned this into an art form with live reports of where the stars were when spotted, so fans could flock to these locations for a sneak peek of their favorite celebs.

Maps should have a purpose. Incorporating them into your blog’s design means the map is a part of your blog’s focus and purpose. If it is ancillary, then put it on a Page. If it is critical, put it front and center. Let the world know where you live and work right in the tag line, blog title, and blog purpose statement. Make the map a part of the design as well as the intent: “Living here is important to me and what I blog about.”

There are a lot of options for displaying maps within your blog, in and out of the blog’s design. Remember, the map must meet the needs of your reader, just as every design element within your blog should. It’s not there to remind you where you live and work. It’s to remind people where you are in the world.

Does It Matter Where Your Readers Are?

While helping your readers understand more about you and your blog’s motivation by knowing your geographic location, how important is it that your readers know where the other readers are coming from to visit your blog?

Your blog statistics should provide you with that information, but that is hidden from the world. Many bloggers rejoice in having someone visit their blog from the other side of the world and want to share that joy with their readers. But do the readers care?

Some do. Some find visitor maps of great interest. And it is fascinating where people are from. But does that really add content and helpful information to the blog? Or is it a gimmick and gadget toy?

If your blog is designed to serve an international crowd, then location is important and helps readers immediately recognize that this is a world service blog.

If your blog is highly social, but not promoting international affairs and commentary, it’s still a fun gadget to have on your blog – but it’s for fun not for aid, so don’t feature it prominently so other more important design and information elements get pushed aside.

If the thrill of knowing where your readers are coming from has died off for you, then it may have long bored your readers. Consider removing this, replacing it, or moving it to a Page on your blog that lists your stats and other information about your blog.

The web, and especially blogs, are shrinking the world in so many ways. The more we learn about people in all parts of the world, the closer we become. Where you are from is important, but shouldn’t change our perspective on who you are as a person. We are starting to learn how to respect each other for our thoughts and ideas, not our geographic location and all the stereotypes associate with that location. Maybe it’s time you opened your blog up to the undefined world map and not boxed yourself in by location.

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