Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Google maps continue to be a hit for QR Code use

QR code for traffic signals ran on the front
I recently created a Google map for a story I wrote about flashing red traffic signals being phased out not just in our county, but nationwide.

I thought it would be neat to plot on a map all the Oakland County intersections that currently have the new flashing yellow traffic signals as well those slated to be changed over this year.

The Road Commission for Oakland County provided me the list and I built the map based off that. Even though I had more than 80 points to plot, it wasn't terribly time consuming.

Online, the Google map was embedded in my story file. In print, a QR Code linked readers with smartphones to the map.

Once again, the Google maps are proving their worthiness in terms of things readers will use. The traffic signal map code garnered a total of 91 scans. Compare that to my Fires in Pontiac map & QR code, which published twice and got a total of 127 scans. Both numbers are good.

Meanwhile, using QR codes for websites seems to be less of a hit. In a story that published recently about a local couple who travels to Utah to volunteer on their vacations, a QR code linking readers to volunteer information for the organization got only 11 scans. A remembrance page for a local teen who died got just 10 scans. Information about an event, the Great American Basset Waddle, got just 13 scans and a code for a contest on my blog garnered 14.

So you can see the difference. Google Maps = hit. Websites = not so much.

A Google map building tip: When adding your own icons isn't working
When I was creating this map, I wanted the icons to be little traffic signals. I had a good image of one on a flyer from the Road Commission for Oakland County, and since I couldn't find any standard icons I liked, I decided I would try adding the traffic signal image as an icon.
Seems simple enough — double click on the icon box and then select "Add an icon."
It requires you to have a link to the image, so I uploaded it first to my Picasa account (another facet of Google that allows you to store images online). I figured that since both Picasa and My Maps are features of Google, they'd work together. And Picasa does give you a specific link for any image uploaded.
Well, it didn't work.
I ended up in help topics, found my way to reader forums and finally got some good advice: Set up a free account with fileave.com and use the link provided to the image once uploaded there.
The last thing I need is another account and password, but that's OK. In the end, it worked like a charm and got me back to building my map just exactly how I had envisioned it.
Fileave.com seems like a bit of an archaic website — it's super simple — but it worked very well and it's simplicity also meant it was very, very easy to use.

The traffic signals map

View Oakland Co. Intersections with Flashing Yellow Traffic Signals in a larger map

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