A short history & future of Google Maps Widget

Best products are made by people who had a problem and created a solution for themselves and later made it public. It’s a cliche described in hundreds of books. In a way, Google Maps Widget is also a cliche because it got made for the same reason. Cliche or not it helped over a hundred thousand people put a map on their site in the last six years.

We scratched our itch

Back in early 2012, we were doing a lot of themes for clients, and it soon became apparent that there’s a set of standard widgets that almost all clients need. One of those widgets was a map. Simple, no-nonsense thumbnail which shows a lightbox when clicked. I didn’t take us long to make such a widget, and we didn’t give it much thought.
The widget wasn’t anything special; everybody had it. While speed-optimising one of our themes we realised that the thumbnail map took nearly 40 requests to load. Insane! Nobody even looks at the thumbnail properly; it’s there so people can click it to get to the lightbox. There must be a way to cut down those requests. And there was! Google Static Image Maps – one single request for the whole thumbnail map. Now we had something others didn’t! That’s when we decided to put GMW in the WordPress repository.

Other people had the same itch

It soon became apparent that other people have the same itch. They too wanted maps that load faster. Although the widget barely had any options (address, zoom and lightbox size), we were getting raving reviews. Why? Because it worked out-of-the-box without any setup. Simple and functional solutions always trump cumbersome and buggy ones.

What’s next?

Keeping GMW lean while at the same time adding new features customers demand is a daily struggle for us. We don’t want Google Maps Widget to have every imaginable feature there is, but we do want our users to be happy. We maintain balance by carefully examining new features and add only those we feel will benefit at least 80% of the user-base. Great care is also taken into default settings. Everything has to work out-of-the-box, just like it did the first day.
We’re also continuously updating GMW to follow the never-ending progress of WP core. Compatibility with old and new versions is paramount.