Maps have come a long way. Gone are the days of maps that would reload every time you needed to zoom in, zoom out, or look at a different quadrant. AJAX has made maps faster and more intuitive to use, while map service providers have gone out of their way to provide developer-friendly APIs that make it easy to add maps to your site. As a result of these developments, there are now a number of different plugins that allow you to put customized, interactive maps on your WordPress website. Take a look at some of the plugins below to see what you can do.
MapPress Easy Google Maps – Download
This is your just-the-facts-ma’am (and excellent) Google Maps plugin. It creates a custom field in your post or page, where you can search for location on a map, decide on the size and borders of the map, and post it with a shortcode. If you find yourself putting in a lot of maps and don’t want to be bogged down with crafting maps, this is your go-to plugin. Get the Pro version for more features like custom marker icons, mashup maps, a sidebar widget, integration with TurboCSV, and to remove the branding.
Interactive World Maps – Download
A little bit different than the other map plugins here, Interactive World Maps is not specifically intended to create accurate maps of precise addresses. Instead, it is designed to allow you to create SVG maps of the entire world, a continent, a country, regions of a country, a US state, and the metropolitan areas of a US state. It also allows you to add (1) a tooltip with a description and title for the area when it is hovered over and (2) an action, such as opening a link. For those of you want to show maps of service coverage, this a great offering. The developer has gone out of his way to make it easy to install and intuitive to use; you will be surprised how quickly and smoothly you will be able to put together a sophisticated looking map.
WordPress Google Maps Plugin – Download
One of the most balanced of the plugins available in the market, WordPress Google Maps plugin is simple to use, easy to customize, and features a library of excellent addons that extend the functionality of the basic plugin. For those of you who like it, but are looking for something a bit cheaper, check out the lite version which does much the same thing, but has a few less features.
Comprehensive Google Map Plugin – Download
This excellent plugin allows you to fully customize your maps through their shortcode builder (the maps are inserted into a page or post with a shortcode) . Toggle the different options to enable: width, height, zoom, map type, alignment, direction hint, map language, pan, scale, scroll wheel, street view, map drag, GEO mashup (markers in one map will show up in other maps), hundreds of map markers, info bubbles, KML/GPX/Geo RSS URL , bike paths, traffic info, and the Panoramio library. As you can see, they weren’t joking about comprehensive. If this strikes as you as kind of a lot of options to juggle, the plugin provides you info bubbles in the shortcode builder that clearly explain what each option does and includes some even more detailed documentation as backup. And don’t let the number of options make you feel overwhelmed, this plugin is actually very simple and easy to use.
Pronamic Google Maps – Download
The Pronamic plugin is really designed to be the developer’s friend. Not quite as user-friendly (although it does use a simple, if not especially well documented, shortcode implementation) as some of the other offerings in the market, it instead offers a wide range of excellent options for someone who is comfortable with mucking about in WordPress code. That means some interesting features: use of Google Maps API v. 3, conservation of database tables, easy integration with custom post types, Geo Microformats, and it comes out-of-the-box in debug mode.
Nokia Maps & Places – Download
For those of you looking for an alternative to using Google, this plugin makes good use of Nokia Maps’ API. The maps generated by the plugin have a nice, somewhat quieter, look than your typical Google Map and allow for you to add a dark overlay that contains your description of the map. For those of you looking for a quality map with a slightly more elegant look (IMHO), this plugin might be a good option.
WP CloudMade Maps – Download
This plugin must be the favorite of the graphic designer or blogger with a strong interest in visually compelling and design-friendly maps. WP CloudMade’s StyleEditor is designed for you to be able to take control over your maps’ look and feel by enabling you to create your own map styles, borrow styles from other designers, or hide features that might not be as relevant to your map’s needs. This allows you to create maps that are unique looking, uniquely attractive, and uniquely suitable for your purposes. That it is also easy to use, and shows you in the WYSIWYG editor how the map will be formatted in your post, are further pluses. I do have to take points off, though, for difficulty of installation (you need at least two API keys) and the fact that the actual mapping didn’t work well for me (it couldn’t seem to correctly locate my house or work). This could be because it uses OpenStreetMap and Flickr Map rather than Google Maps, but considering that I had no similar difficulty with Nokia Maps (which shares data with Flickr) I am not precisely sure what the issue I faced was.
Take a look at the tutorial video below to see how the StyleEditor works: