Thursday, May 20, 2010

Add a touch of style to your maps

Google Maps are instantly familiar to millions of Internet users worldwide. The user interface and the look and feel of our maps combine to ensure that when a user sees a Google map on any web site, they instantly know how to interact with that map, and find their way around.

There is however an unavoidable consequence of this consistency. No matter which Maps API site you are on, every map looks the same. If you want your map to stand out from the crowd, your options are limited to customizing the markers and controls, and if your brand has a particular colour scheme that is reflected on your site, Google Maps may not sit well with it.

From today, this all changes. You are now free to unleash your creativity on the base Google map itself, as we are delighted to launch Styled Maps in the Google Maps API v3.

Styled Maps offers you control over both the types of features shown on your maps, and the color scheme used to represent them. The possibilities are endless, as the examples below show:

For information on how to define a Map Style, check out the Maps API v3 documentation. Alternatively, you can use our Styled Map wizard to experiment with different styles, and generate the Styled Map definitions to use in your Maps API application.

We can’t wait to to see the creative ways in which our developers use Styled Maps, and the proliferation of new and interesting maps that will be created. For example, our friends over at NBC Local Media have created The Mood of our Cities Now, which surfaces the most emotional stories of the day. The map displays the location of the story with the color correlating to how the majority of users felt about that story. It’s a great way to see stories from across the nation and how they have been received by their individual communities.

We hope that this is the first of many equally compelling and innovative examples of the use of Styled Maps, and that you love this new feature of the Maps API as much as we do. May a thousand map styles bloom!