Launch of the new campus map | firez
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Launch of the new campus map

We have launched our new campus map and thought it would be a good opportunity to discuss some of the new features it offers and why we made the change.

We had a campus map, why did we need a new one?

The campus map is often the forgotten child of a university website. Seen by many as « just a list of buildings on a map ». For many first-time campus visitors (such as prospective students and freshmen) it is one of the first ports of call to get their bearings. This makes the campus map an invaluable tool for conversion and for helping our new students feel more at home.

Our old map was very similar to what you will find on many other university websites today. In the last five or six years it has undergone some rebranding, schools and colleges have moved, but basically the map hasn’t changed much. Five years is a long time on the web, and the way we consume content and the devices we use to consume it have changed in that time.

At the end of May we hosted a weekend campus-wide celebration for our 50th anniversary. Alumni weekend had a lot of different events around campus and a lot of visitors who needed to know what was happening when and how to get there. This has given us a fantastic opportunity to revisit the campus map.

A campus map suitable for the best university in Scotland

Developing our requirements for the new map with the team working on Alumni Weekend allowed us to broaden our reach. The map had to provide the basic functionality of the previous one, but it also had to work for events. As a campus visitor I need to be able to see where I am and how to get to where I want to go, not just see a marker on a map I’m not familiar with.

The new map:

  • it is searchable between places and events
  • provides event information tied to map locations
  • provides location and directions service
  • is usable on any device with a responsive design optimized for mobile devices
  • extracts information from gold copy sources wherever possible

Old map vs new map

Behind the scenes

We used the latest version of the Google Maps JavaScript API as the platform for our new map. This allows us to use many of the more advanced features that weren’t available on our old map such as geolocation and direction service.

Our design team has put together a great looking interface with the map itself taking center stage, providing a much improved user experience. The look and feel of the new map is in line with our new branding using Zurb’s Foundation framework as a foundation. The design is responsive and works well on a wide range of devices.

We pull event information from our content management system ensuring a source of truth for events. This gets linked to events on the map so you can show what’s happening at each location or where events are happening.

To help with performance we have used build tools like npm/Bower/Gulp to combine and minify CSS and JS. We’ve also implemented lazy loading of images in our search results to save bandwidth and reduce loading times.

Make good use of the map

The new map lives on but you can also use short-link

If you see anything on the map that you don’t think is right, or you don’t see something that you expect to be there, please give us a call with Help4U and we will look into it.

Find your way to campus

If you ever need to know where you are on campus, open the map and it should place a marker at your current location (assuming you’ve granted location access to the map and are using WiFi or have a phone signal mobile).

You can find out how to get from where you are to any of the locations on the map (or from one to another) by clicking on a location in the search results and using the directions service.

Map link for events

If you’re hosting an event, you can link directly to a location on the map:

  1. Find the location your event uses.
  2. Open the location details by clicking on the location in the results tab (or by clicking on the map marker).
  3. Click the « Click to copy a link to this location » link, this will copy a direct link to the location to your clipboard.
  4. This link can be used in event details for Eventbrite listings, in email campaigns, and when submitting your event for website listing.

Inserting your event on the map

When you submit your event via the events form on the University website you will see a new field called ‘Location on Campus Map’, select the location or locations where your event is taking place and it will be listed against those locations on the map once the event has been posted.

Where do we go from here?

The map we have now has fulfilled the ambitions we had at the beginning of the project but, as I said at the beginning of this post, the way we consume content is constantly evolving. We’re looking at how people interact with the new map, tools like Hotjar and user testing are helping us develop new requirements:

  • making it easier to find information about schools and universities
  • adding bounding boxes for places like the parking lot

We are already working on providing better content for places and information on accessible parking spaces.

Combined with other forms of testing and user feedback, we will continue to improve the campus map to better serve our users.