What Problem Does This Solve?
Users need to find a (physical) store close to a specific location. This is typically accomplished by allowing users to ‘search’ for a store and show the results on a map, often accompanied with a tabular listing of the locations and their distances from the user’s current location.
When to Use This Pattern
You are designing a site for an organization that has physical stores, departments, offices of an organization, or similar associated with it. Typical usage includes e-commerce sites, corporate websites, or public offices. Using a store locator requires that a large number of stores exist otherwise a simple listing of stores is sufficient.
What’s the Solution?
A store locator is a specific sort of Advanced Search where you are specifically looking for stores, probably in a certain area. While the depth of the actual workflow may differ from case to case, the included steps are always the same:
- Set the (partial) destination location
- Set search options, basically a filter on the possible results
- Activate the search engine
- Show a map with the results marked along with the textual addresses of the results
- Search again if the results are not satisfactory
For the display of the search results (stores found) the author of the map typically chooses a street map that shows the extent of the results and using pins to display the actual locations of the stores. Details about the location of the stores are displayed via map tips, tool tips and alternatively next to the map in tabular form. The search interface part is also preferably displayed again so that users can adjust their query easily and run a new search.
Why Use This Pattern?
This pattern is a special version of the advanced search where users can only look for locations. This affects the search interface part and the way results are displayed.
Further considerations for a successful implementation include narrowing or extending the search radius or narrowing the product palette. The goal here is to find the right balance between no results and too many results.
- No results found: If no results are found within the initial search radius, the application could extent the radius to see if more results are available further away the user’s current position. The decision whether this approach makes sense should be based on the type of store and the motivation for the user to drive the distance. For instance, a person might be willing to drive 50 miles to a specialty store or for fine dining but less likely to buy a cup of coffee or a tennis racket. An alternative approach to dealing with the zero results case is to show a meaningful message combined with a link to an online shopping experience.
- Too many results: Use good default radius value for the search. If too many results are found the store locator should either show the first 10 results plus the option to paginate to save bandwidth or automatically narrow the radius to a meaningful number. The most elegant solution helps the user to narrow their search by product detail, e.g. the application can ask the user to specify the product she is looking for (“Where to buy my product”) rather than showing all the locations that might not even carry the product the user is intending to acquire by finding the store in the first place.