I am building an apartment rental website and I am implementing a feature that will allows the owners to specify the location of the unit to be rented on Google map.

Part of the process of a adding an apartment for rent in my website, the user has to specify the location of the unit from a dropdown lists (country, city, district) and on Google map. When the user select a country, city, district from the dropdown lists, the map will auto-zoom in to the specified location. For example, it will zoom in to "USA" (country dropdown) then "USA Washington" (city dropdown) then "USA Washington Seattle" (country district) -- this is just an example I acknowledge that Seattle is not a district.

Currently, I have a + sign in the middle of the map and I ask the user to zoom and drag the map to place the + sign on the location of the unit. Something similar to http://en.googlemaps.subgurim.net/ejemplos/ejemplo_600_Controles-extra.aspx. There should not be too much dragging and zooming by the user to place the + on the location of the unit since the map is already zoomed in to the location specified in the dropdown lists. Then I will just retrieve the coordinate of the + sign and store it in my database.

Is there any better and more intuitive ways to do this?

Note: just for your reference here is another possible way https://google-developers.appspot.com/maps/documentation/javascript/examples/marker-animations

  • Really minor comment but would it make sense to have a pin instead of a plus sign? On almost all maps I know of a plus sign means to zoom in more, so people might end up on clicking it by accident. The only other comment I would make is using this approach it means users have to move the map in order for the marker to be in the right spot, but intuitively people will attempt to move the pin rather than the map (maybe the solution is to use a pin and zoom as you say but once you get to the approximate area put the pin in the middle and let the user drag it to the right place? – rsparis Aug 22 '12 at 5:36
  • ... or better yet don't have a pin placed at all and make it clear that dragging the mouse will move the map (just like in google maps), and then you click to place the marker where you want it to be (not always the centre of the map). You'll want to make sure the design is clear enough so that people know it needs to be accurate and don't say "it's roughly about here" – rsparis Aug 22 '12 at 5:39

The problem I have with your approach is that has too many steps

  1. Select the country
  2. Select the City
  3. Select the district
  4. Drag the icon to the location

The problem with this approach is that you are making the assumption that the user would know exactly where his unit is with relation to the map of the district/city (e.g. I lived in Seattle for about three years but my knowledge of neighbourhoods is restricted to University district,greenlake and Redmond, if I was specifying an unit in a new place (say Mercer Island) I wont know where the unit is in relation to other neighbourhoods).

The easier way to handle this would be to ask the user to enter the address physically and then use Google's own mapping algorithm to map the pin.

Edit : This way you can also directly get the user address in a consistent format without having to extrapolate it from the map.However based upon your comment that the user addresses are not consistent, I would recommend a two step approach :

  1. Allow the user to specify his address
  2. If google is able to retrieve a match for the address, ask him to confirm it
  3. If google is able to retrieve multiple matches for the address, ask him to select from the addresses or try again with a different variation
  4. If google is not able to retrieve any match,then just ask them to use the map to plot where they would be
  • Unfortunately, the website I am building is mainly targeting courtiers in the middle east. I am from Saudi Arabia and we don't have a good addressing system like the one in the US. People use P.O. Boxes and no reliable home# or street names. I though agree with you that the assumption that everyone knows exactly the location of the unit is wrong. Maybe I may make it as an optional info that the user can provide. – Eyad Aug 22 '12 at 6:31
  • Ok just updated my answer – Mervin Aug 22 '12 at 9:15

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