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I'm looking for examples of a user interface to select or browse for a worldwide location. A location could be as small as a town, or as big as a continent. It could also be vague such as "the Alps".

The locations available are all pre-determined I.e the user can only pick a location that is on the system. 1000's rather than millions of places.

This is one stage/field of a form rather than a whole app.

These locations are vacation destinations.

The will be two types of user: one that knows exactly where they want to go, and one that might want to explore.

A clickable / zooming map might work for exploring for instance, but not so good for someone who knows where they want to go but doesn't necessarily know where that place is geographically.

Or a list of continents, then countries, then places in some sort of multi level menu?

A clickable map plus auto-complete box?

Any more options or examples that might work?

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I believe that a simple, straightforward, familiar approach that takes advantage of relatively modern technology would be the best for the user that knows where they want to go: a search field, akin to that of Google Maps.

I'm not sure what your goal is in allowing a user to "explore", however. (A place to travel to by foot? A vacation destination? Simply looking for information? Browsing an atlas?) Perhaps a showcase of "notable places" or a worldwide zoomable map might be useful in any situation.

In short, I believe that "a clickable map plus auto-complete box" would be the most useful and familiar approach.

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+1 A smart search (like Google maps) would be possibly the fastest way for a knowledgable user to specify the desired location. I'd also have alternate browsable methods like a list of countries, select a country and get a list of states or provinces, etc. –  obelia Jan 8 '13 at 2:27
    
I agree this is likely the way forward.. I guess the harder part is to help people who know where they want to go, but that place isn't offered... i.e. They type in "Timbuktu" but that isn't an option. –  Guy Bowden Jan 8 '13 at 9:48
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