Thursday, January 7, 2010

Google Maps feature idea: Service Areas

I want to be able to type this in to Google and get a pretty map and listing:
"furniture stores that deliver to _my address_" (where _my address_ is actually my address)
I want Google to come back with a list of stores and a link to see those stores plotted on a map.  Obviously Google can't do this on their own, but they can define the standards and help companies get their data up on their websites. 

Each company should be able to define multiple types of service areas.  For instance, they could have a "free" area and a "$5 service charge" service area.  Or they could have a "same day" service area and a "next day" service area.  Or whatever they want.

Obviously this would apply to more than just furniture.  Pizza, chicken, burritos, flowers, plumbers, A/C services, tow trucks, hail repair, insurance, etc.  All of these types of companies, and a whole lot more that I'm not thinking of right now, would love to be able to target customers with specific searches like this.  Some companies that have potentially overlapping service areas, like insurance agents, could even use this to define boundaries for each agency.

This seems pretty easy to accomplish.  We just need to agree on a file spec and let everyone publish their service area data--and then Google has to update their search engine to read the data.  I think that the data should be in a simple XML file stored on the service provider's webserver.  I would call it "service_areas.xml".  That file should contain these minimum data types, but could later expand to contain a whole lot more (like a full menu or service times, etc.):

  • Services: A keyword list of the types of services that they provide.
  • Service Area #1-N: Each service area would have a name and a few other attributes:
  • Cost
  • Time
  • Coordinates: A list of Latitude & Longitude pairs that define the boundaries of the service area.

Google could whip up a Google Map application that would let you fill in some blanks and put some pins on the map, and then press a button to generate an XML file that you could use.  Then you would just copy that file into the root directory of your website and the magic would happen.

Obviously it doesn't have to be XML, that's just the format that I am most familiar with that would suit this purpose.   Yahoo, Microsoft, and other map sites can use the data, too, I guess.  But I only use Google Maps, so I really don't care much about the others. 

Somebody get Google moving on this, please.  Thanks.

1 comment:

  1. Pick up the phone and call some furntiurte stores - ask them about their delivery policies - is it defined by city limit, zip code? They probably don't state within X miles, but "We offer free delivery to City A and B." You can use this rule by searching for furniture stores in your city or within county.