Four common locator map errors that make cartographers cringe

Four common locator map errors that make cartographers cringe

Costco-mapHaving someone design a small, simplified map for your customers makes a lot of sense for new businesses. Your location is so new, it’s not in the phone book, in Google Maps or in GPS systems. If you’re a big enough business like Costco, your street might even be brand new.

But I’ve seen enough of these little maps to detect a pattern of small errors that creep their way in. Evidently, good designers are rarely good map editors.

You can fight four kinds of map mishaps by watching for these common errors:

Mislabeled streets

Here is a map from a flyer for the new Costco in Fort Wayne. But Interstate 69 is completely mislabeled as “Lincoln Highway.” Everyone in Fort Wayne knows I-69 was never Lincoln Highway, and, considering its history, Lincoln Highway was never even a four-lane freeway.

If you are tasked with designing a map for an unfamiliar area, consider contracting with someone in that town who can check for obvious errors such as this. You don’t want to look like some out-of-town carpetbagger and don’t know what you’re doing, do you?

Imprecise drawings

The map says Costco’s access road, Value Drive, runs to the west of the store. True enough. But there’s another, better access road from Progress Drive directly to the south of the store. It’s not on the map at all.

Designers, please note how this adds confusion to the shopper trying to drive to your location for the first time. Be as precise as possible when locating entrances and major roads.

Incorrect shields

69-30The shape used for the Interstate 69 shield on the Costco map is incorrect. That six-pointed shape is used for U.S. routes, not interstates. Interstate shields are the red-white-and-blue four-pointed shields. Of course, if color is not available, a one-color shield is acceptable.

If you are designing a map, look through your font of cartography dingbats and find the different shields. If the font is any good at all, both will be represented.

Out-of-date route numbers

Thankfully, this error isn’t found in the Costco map. But it’s extremely common. Fort Wayne and other cities of its size and larger often have built bypasses over the years to carry U.S. and state routes. Local residents often still use those route numbers colloquially, though, which adds to the confusion.

In Fort Wayne, U.S. 33, 30, and 24, and Indiana routes 37 and 14, no longer venture inside the “loop” created by I-69 and I-469. U.S. 27 and Indiana 930 are the only official route numbers that cross the interior of Fort Wayne.

And one bonus point for online:

Non-updated web sites

Even now, with the Fort Wane Costco ready to open in a few days, it’s still not listed in any way on the Costco.com web site.

Study these points well — or ask a map nerd like myself — to make sure that your locator map ends up pretty and precise.

Create a universal QR code for Android Market and iOS App Store

Create a universal QR code for Android Market and iOS App Store

It’s easy enough to create a QR code for a URL using a free online tool. (URLs are web addresses, my non-geeky friends.) There are dozens of them, although this QR code generator from the ZXing Project is a favorite of mine.

But what if you are offering apps for different mobile platforms, such as iOS and Android? How do you make a QR code that somehow “knows” what kind of device is scanning the code?

Thankfully, you have an array of free online tools to help you do just that. Here are the steps I took to create a QR code for the app offered by The Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce:

1. Gather your app links

Make sure you have the proper, complete links to your apps.

A link to the Android store begins like this: https://play.google.com.

For example, here is the link for The Chamber’s Android app: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.moblico.chamber2go.FWChamber2go

A link to the iOS store — that’s iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch — begins http://itunes.apple.com.

For example, the link to The Chamber’s app is this: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/fwchamber2go/id503214934?mt=8

2. Shorten the links

The shorter the links, the less complex the QR code becomes. Thus, theoretically, it’s easier to be read by your QR scanner. Compare the two codes to the left. The code on the left uses the original URLs I listed above. The one on the right uses shortened URLs.

If you don’t currently use a URL shortener, or if you’re unsure how to shorten a URL, I recommend the URL shortener called Bitly. You’ll be able to shorten the link and keep track of how many times the link is scanned or clicked on.

3. Copy your links into this QR code generator

Copy those shortened URLs you created and paste them into the proper slots on the form here: http://qrappdownload.appspot.com/

Important! Be sure to delete the sample URLs in the online form!

Then download the QR code you generated somewhere you can find it again. You might want to save those links that the generator creates, just in case you lose your QR code image.

4. Test, test, test!

Before you plaster that QR code all over town, be sure to test, test, and test again that code on as many devices and code readers as you can. For better advice than I can give, check out “Testing QR Codes for Scan-ability” by Kevin Mullett at Cirrus ABS.

That’s it! If you use these tools, let me know how they worked for you, especially if they didn’t work for you.