Friday, January 21, 2011

SEO friendly maps with jQuery

In my free time I am working on a social networking site for RC pilots. I have information pages for various RC airfields and I was looking for a good way to display a listing of the fields. Putting markers on an embedded google map is a great way to display this type of data to users. The method I have seen recommended for this is to make separate list and map views. I don't really think that is a great user experience though.

The main reason making two pages is suggested is that maps require many lines of code and JavaScript functions that will dilute your content. The solution I arrived at was to use as little javascript as possible to generate my map. I ended up accomplishing this by using javascript to parse the content of the page to generate the markers.

To be able to easily parse out the data I wanted to display on the map I ended up making my own microformat. I put a class of field on the div that contained each field I was showing on the page. In that div I put the content that I wanted to display in the information popup for each marker. Then in that div I put two spans that contained the latitude and longitude and gave them each a class. The results ended up looking like this:

Then I wrote some javascript to parse this microformat and generate markers for my map. I used jQuery selectors to select each field in the html. For each field the latitude, longitude, and html contents are selected. Then the add_marker method is called to setup the marker with that data. After the marker is created I hide the field div.

Users with javascript will see a map with a bunch of markers that have an information bubble when clicked on. Users that do not have javascript enabled will see a list of field information. The textual content is the same for both users, the users with javascript just get an improved experience.

Go to to see the end result.


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