Using Google maps on websites has pretty much become the norm. Everyone is familiar with them and they make it super easy for people to find your location. There is no shortage of plugins out there—as well as themes— that include Google Maps as an option. But many times, to get all the features you really want, you have to install several different plugins.
Google Maps WD combines it all, giving you the features you would find in a map marker plugin, store locator plugin and location highlighting map.
In this review, I am going to go over the details of the free version. I’ll also show you some of the features of the premium version, in case you are looking for additional functionality.
Installing Via the Wizard
More and more plugins are providing a wizard to help you get started with the initial settings. It’s a great, user-friendly option.
I’ll take you on a walk-through of the wizard now.
First, you will be asked to get your API key, which isn’t difficult to do. The plugin site gives you very detailed and easy-to-follow instructions on how to do this if you are unfamiliar with it.
Next, you’ll be asked to put in your location and set a few other options. Remember, as with any wizard, you can always skip any step and fill out this information later.
That’s it. Now, for building your first map.
If we go into the Options, we find the settings that we made during the Wizard install. As I mentioned, these can be changed or adjusted. A side note: you can upload custom markers if you get the premium version.
Adding a New Map
Here you will find all the maps you have created, as well as where you can create a new one.
By clicking on Add Map, you now have several options available for settings and other features included in the free version.
Adding a Marker
Adding a marker is easy and has several options, depending on if you are using the free or premium version. For those of you who have never used one of these map plugins, don’t freak out on the Latitude and Longitude settings. Those are there if you need a marker that doesn’t have a physical address. But normally, you can just start typing in the landmark, name of business, etc and Google will find it for you.
Adding a Polygon
A polygon is a multi-layer overlay that allows you to highlight a certain area, border and fill, which are all editable. There could be several reasons that you might want to use something like this on your map. For instance, instead of a specific address, a section of a city or any other locatable area could be highlighted. This is a very useful option.
As you see, I added one by simply clicking on the map. It can be easily adjusted by simply moving the markers (or what is referred to as a vertex). You also have the option of removing the markers, so only the highlighted area is shown.
Adding a Polyline
In addition, you can add a line between locations. This is a nice option if you have some specific needs; for example, if you wanted to show the walking path between where a conference was held and the hosting hotel. The settings allow some customizations and the locations (or vertex) can be added by just right clicking on the map.
Circles and Rectangles
With the premium version, you have the ability to do something similar with circles and rectangles as well.
Once you have added markers, polygons, and polylines, they will all be listed on the main map page, which makes them easy to edit.
As you will see in the next few screenshots, there are tons of additional settings available for each specific map, allowing you to also override some of the global settings that you originally set. You will see which settings are available in the free version I am using for this review. (Premium options are noted in red.)
One setting I liked allows you to set the width by pixels or percentage, which gives you more control over the size and how it fits on your theme’s page.
Again, several options here. You will note that the dropdown menus for all the positions have quite a few choices, as shown in the last one here.
It also lets you add layers specific to bicycle, traffic and transit. I have enabled transit here. Some even more specific features come with the premium version.
As you can see, this option is available in the premium version and has a few settings of the position for the directions window.
Store Locator Settings
The Store Locator will add a circular overlay so the user can see what locations are within a specific radius. If you want more control over the look of the circle, you’ll find that in the premium version.
Marker Listing Settings
The Marker Listing is also a feature in the premium version. When this filter is enabled, you can choose the categories of the markers you want to display. The lists can be displayed as a basic list, a tabled list that allows you to control more of the ordering, or a carousel.
And there is a spot where you can create all of your Marker Categories.
In the premium version, you have choices of various themes for your maps. In the settings you will be able to see your available choices and can edit each of them.
If you click on Themes in the side menu, you’ll see all of your available themes listed with a series of features to add— and a lot of control over customizing the look of the map’s theme. Each feature you enable also gives you options for further customizing. As you can see, the premium version is your best bet if you want total control over the look and feel of your maps.
Inserting a Map Into a Page or Post
Maps are inserted anywhere you want in a page or post via a shortcode, which can be found on the lists of your maps.
Simply open a page or post, and paste it in.
And now your map is there.
There is also a widget that lets you, with a few additional settings, easily place one of your maps in any widget area on your site.
With the premium version, you also get an export/import option, which is useful if you need to use the same map on additional sites.
As you can see, this is a highly customizable and feature-filled Google Maps plugin. The settings are easy to understand and premium options are clearly noted when you are using the free version. If you are looking for a way to display just one or two simple maps on your site, I would consider the free version because it has some very cool features and it just might do the job for you. But if you want more control, especially when it comes to the appearance of your maps, I would go with the WordPress Google maps plugin here on their site.