Help Me Keep Our Store Maps Up-to-date!!
November 9, 2012 4:13 PM   Subscribe

THE PROBLEM: Let's say you have a large store spread across several floors of a building, with many many aisles and sections. There are information kiosks located at various rooms in the store, oriented different directions. Each information kiosk has a map of the store on it, with the aisles and sections numbered and labeled, and the map rearranged and the text rotated to the viewpoint of the customer standing at the information desk. What is the most efficient way to create and update that map as sections change?

DETAILS: Right now, we have 8+ different files, one for each of the maps at each of the individual kiosks. We update them every year or so, so right now I'm taking the 100+ aisle/section changes in all the rooms and individually changing each one in one map's Adobe Illustrator file. I plan on using that map as a master, and it looks like I'll probably have to go from room to room in the different files, comparing every aisle with the corrected master map, and changing all those by hand. Le sigh.

COMPLICATION: Along with the rooms rearranging to the orientation of each map, on a few maps the entire layout is rotated, so the text is upside down (compared to the other maps).

THE ONLY IDEA I'VE HAD SO FAR: Making the map of each room an InDesign file, and then creating custom image boxes in the shape of each room on each map's master file, linking them to the individual room's file. Then, I can update the text in one room, and know that the image boxes in the other files will automatically update when I open the new file. I don't know that there will be any way to automatically rotate the text for the files that need that. I think I'd have to rotate each text box individually to keep it orientated to the shelf, yes?

BONUS POINTS: It would be AMAZING if there was a way to map individual aisle locations to a master list, so a person could change something in the master list (Shoes are now on Aisle 25) and have the text inside the map update accordingly. Or maybe the opposite would be possible; you change the master map and have a corrected list that exports with the aisle number.

FOR EXAMPLE: Here's an example room that shows the complexity of the map.
posted by redsparkler to Technology (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Why bother? One of the key tenets to retailing is make the customer browse. By mapping it all out you potentially lose sales by having the customer take a direct route, rather than browsing among everything else along the way.

But by the same token you don't want to antagonize repeat customers too much by rearranging things too often.

And might it not be easier to just use a "You are here" stamp and then just reprint the same map as many times as necessary? Seems easier that trying to make a bajillion different maps AND then keep them straight when you go to each and every kiosk.

I cannot really imagine the customers making enough use of such customized maps as to justify all that work. Sure, it seems like a fine idea... if you're crazy OCD about this sort of thing. But, really?
posted by wkearney99 at 4:33 PM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

redsparkler: "and the map rearranged and the text rotated to the viewpoint of the customer standing at the information desk. What is the most efficient way to create and update that map as sections change?"

Is this a hard requirement? Because dropping the custom orientations of the map in favor of a single orientation with a "You Are Here" star next to the specific information kiosk symbol on the map seems pretty much industry standard for store maps, in my experience.

The really fancy ones will try to put the star on the side of the kiosk symbol where you would be standing when you're looking at the kiosk, what you're describing seems well above and beyond what's called for. Unless you're selling supplies to Orienteering Enthusiasts or something. In fact, the fact that the map isn't constant from kiosk to kiosk may even be more confusing to people who don't have strong map reading skills.
posted by radwolf76 at 4:34 PM on November 9, 2012

Feedback from store employees has said that the oriented map helps them direct the customer to the specific shelves, and although I wouldn't have gone this direction, the navigational system is already in place.

And, to be fair, our product isn't as large and self-explanatory as clothing sections or sporting goods would be; it's a pretty overwhelming environment to navigate, and when given the opportunity to use the maps myself, I did find the orientation to be helpful. Even within just one room, all the shelves look alike, and the added orientation gives you the jump on finding the right section.
posted by redsparkler at 4:55 PM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

In other words, I am the poor lackey who is tasked with updating a previously-instituted system, and if I've got to do it, I might as well streamline it as best I can.
posted by redsparkler at 5:10 PM on November 9, 2012

Try colorcoding the map instead of putting text on it. Then have a separate legend which says "blue = shoes" or whatever.

Colorcoding is generally easier to follow anyway than too much text on a map. A good map is lovely to behold in the way that good engineering is lovely. But a prettified map is not necessarily a good map. (So says my expensive certificate in GIS.)

I like the orientation thing. It is user-friendly. Just try to take text out of it, if possible, so it doesn't matter. Put your text in a separate file. Yes, it probably means redesigning the map. But after that, you should only need to update the legend, not the map.
posted by Michele in California at 5:16 PM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sakes alive, is there any component of the map that doesn't change? That is, is there any consistency? Do the blocks stay in the same place always? At any rate, I think the first thing you should do is start receiving the changes before they're implemented, whether this is just the orders from on high to move a section somewhere, or just CC'ed on emails where the decisions are made.
posted by rhizome at 5:53 PM on November 9, 2012

Wow. I'm really impressed with the complexity of that map, and salute you for keeping up with the changes! I don't know whether this will hold up under such a heavy data load (maybe split the room-maps into separate files?), but I just threw together a quick-and-dirty InDesign file and data merge does pull in text on a path accurately, i.e. with the proper orientation, so that'd be my suggestion.
posted by teremala at 5:55 PM on November 9, 2012

Good gravy! I think I would personally find this type of map to be less than ideal as a consumer and I would feel for the poor soul in charge of maintaining such a thing. If I wasn't able to convince the powers that be to stick with one orientation, I'd definitely be an advocate for taking the text off completely, as Michele in California said, and creating a permanent version of the map that would have a separate, updateable legend either organized by category and then alphabetically or color coded, if that's even possible with the amount of movement there seems to be. Best of luck to you.
posted by couchtater at 9:40 PM on November 9, 2012

Why isn't the information desk always pointing "north" so that you don't have to bother rotating the map? All you would have to change is the "you are here" marker.
posted by dobi at 5:00 AM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks, termala. Data merge, along with some linked file jigsaw puzzle action, might be the solution to streamlining this process in the future.

To all the other responders: Despite the fact that changing this map system isn't an option for me, your varying levels of incredulity at our system reassures me that this project's difficulty level is truly as hard as it seems, and it's not commonly done.
posted by redsparkler at 1:34 PM on November 17, 2012

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