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Web Maps with the Google Map API

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Building the Menu

For a large number of locations scattered over a large geographical region (as in our project), it is important to have a well-thought-out menu for navigation since the sheer volume of information can make your UI cluttered or unusable. Also, this menu should be able to scale efficiently since our points of interest will increase by a significant factor every time we roll-out a new version.

To make things more difficult, the heavy use of JavaScript required by the API makes it tricky and error prone to use heavy frameworks for rich Internet clients. The elegant way we worked around this was to embed the structured list of sites on an <iframe> that would have to load inside the page into which our map was embedded. This way we would also achieve the maximum utilization of the page area for a given screen resolution; see Figure 1.

[Click image to view at full size]

Figure 1: The finished product.

Conclusion

With the launch of its most-recent mapping API, Google has provided web developers with a feature-rich toolset for representing geographical information in a web environment. Besides the various functionality that is already present out-of-the-box, the JavaScript-based environment provides the necessary facilities to extend the default behavior and satisfy even the most challenging requirements. It is also remarkable that all these features come in a package that has been developed from the ground up to be compatible with most major environments (browsers). What is left for the web developer is to provide the underlying connection to data and apply these instruments in a manner that will make usable front-ends possible.


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