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I've noticed that store location pages of various Australian retailers and services don't initially position and zoom directly into the users current location even when the GPS coordinates are known by the map.

They either zoom to the country or state. And only zoom to the users location when the option was selected on a previous page.

In the page I'm building I'm including a single text field for a location search, which would take a state, suburb name or postcode, or combination that will generate a list and position the map. And also a Current Location button.

I'd like to know the rationality behind the different initial zoom level options such as country and state, and what affect it has on the user experience? Why don't they set the initial zoom and position to the users current location without the user opting for it? And what considerations should I make when deciding what initial zoom should I make?

Also note that in my situation I have about a thousand different locations around Australia, tending to cluster around municipal areas.

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So I actually did my Masters thesis research on the default zoom level and level of detail that users prefer when working with way finding and identification tasks. Overall, users tend to prefer a large scale map (more zoomed in) and a generalized view (as opposed to satellite imagery). However, there are exceptions to this.

When setting the initial zoom, the wider it is the more freedom you allow the user. I know this might seem counter intuitive, however this gives the user the ability to zoom in to a particular location that might not be their current location. It allows the user to have all the power to control where they go in the map and takes out the extra step of the user zooming out just to zoom back in on another location.

In your particular case, it really depends on how much you want the user to explore. If you just want the map there as an extra tool, I would suggest keeping the zoom level closer in. If you want the user to explore other locations, consider starting at either a state or country level and having a "Current Location" button to take them to where they are now. This would let them explore the area around them more thoroughly after seeing all the other stores in the state or country.

If you have a lot of locations though, I would use something like the clustering in Leaflet and Mapbox.js to help reduce the map clutter.

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    Thanks for the great answer and food for thought. The purpose of the tool is to turn website visitors into registered users. Due to the nature of the service and business requirements users can only register at a number of specific physical locations. This can be a barrier to retaining leads. So we need to build the best possible UX to enable to user to find their most convenient location and to at some point, travel there. – Steven Trigg Mar 24 '15 at 23:45

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