Hyperlinks: The Secret Powerhouse Driving Interactive Maps and Virtual Tours

July 2, 2020 by Sam Slater

Virtual map linking to Virtual tours

 

Hyperlinks are not a new internet feature by any stretch. The word dates back to 1965, and it was first introduced to public-facing web servers in 1993. But their age has not diminished their importance, nor their potential. If anything, when it comes to interactive and virtual maps, hyperlinks may have even grown in importance over the years.

How can a simple concept like a link become so important? That’s worth exploring further. In many ways, the digital world has grown so complex because of the individual connection between interrelated entities. Hyperlinks can make and optimize these connections. Join us for an in-depth exploration of hyperlinks and their potential use cases within your virtual tour or map.

A Basic Definition of Hyperlinks

Let’s start by getting on the same page. At its most simple, a hyperlink is

A word, phrase, or image that you can click on to jump to a new document (or website) or a new section within the current document (or website). Text hyperlinks are often blue and underlined, but don’t have to be.

You will find hyperlinks on almost every web page you visit, allowing you to navigate around and (if they’re set up correctly) quickly find the information you’re looking for. If you’re like most internet users, you’ll simply call them links.

Integrating Hyperlinks for a More Comprehensive Experience

So much, so obvious. The real key to understanding the purpose of this article is the connection between the basic nature of hyperlinks and its integral role in virtual maps. That connection is also what makes links so powerful, and why they’re worth keeping in mind as you build your map or tour.

Complexity requires connections. Think about a university campus, convention and visitor bureau, or hospital. Each of these are immensely complex entities that can’t be summed up in a single page or graphic. Your audience will not just need to understand the basic layout of the space, but nuances that can range from driving directions to its surrounding areas and their significance.

A simple and self-contained map cannot house all of this information. Through strategically placed hyperlinks, you can make relevant connections and optimize your user experience.

4 Use Cases for Hyperlinks in Virtual Maps and 360° Tours

The above makes sense in theory, but sounds abstract. So let’s make it real. Though they should be used in moderation and strategically, hyperlinks can link to an almost unlimited amount of resources for all of your audiences and needs. The below are just a few of the most common and significant examples.

couple using virtual maps

1) Linking from Map to Driving Directions

Almost every type of business with a virtual tour or interactive map likely looks to patrons, customers, or patients who are visiting by car. Put simply, they need to know how to get there, and get to the right spot on campus and at the building.

Some maps have integrated driving directions. But even they tend to work with hidden links to map services like Google Maps. For others, you can simply link out directly to a map service with a pre-set destination for your audience to get their directions.

That makes sense for the map as a whole, but you can also get more specific. Each parking lot of building, for instance, might have a unique link with directions to that specific spot, keeping nuances like one-way roads in mind. Those types of nuances can significantly increase user experience, thanks to hyperlinks.

2) Connecting the Location to Event Information

In the context of your virtual map, you can only communicate a limited amount of information. Even a virtual tour, typically built around more narrative within the existing space, allows for limited background information. Through hyperlinks, you can satisfy even the most curious among your target audience.

That’s especially true if your business or organization depends on events to increase audience engagement and conversion. A university, for instance, relies on its visits (physical and virtual) to convince prospective students in their enrollment journey. The map or tour is great to build interest, but chances are you need more.

You might require early registrations for your events. You might have a pre-event chat room or social media group for attendees to connect. Or you might charge an entry fee. Each of these possibilities probably requires more business on websites that are not actually your map. Thanks to hyperlinks, you can connect the exact event location to more information (and next steps) related to that event.

3) Integrating Text-Only Maps for Accessibility

Web accessibility has taken center stage in recent years, especially as regulations around making your online presence have become more stringent and prominent. And even without these rules, making your website accessible can play a core role in helping you reach the 57 million Americans with a disability.

A virtual map or tour, of course, can be difficult to showcase to an audience that has even slightly impaired vision. So best practices have begun to revolve around text-only maps and directions that are easily readable by screen reader software. 

And yet, you probably don’t want that text-only map to be front and center for audiences who don’t suffer from a disability. The solution: link to it prominently, so it’s easy to find for those who need it. Through that hyperlink, you can quite literally have the best of both worlds, satisfying both ends of your audience spectrum.

4) Interlinking Between System Stakeholders

Finally, we’ve come to what might be the most important, and most complex, the benefit of hyperlinks within your digital map. For most organizations using virtual tours, complexity is the name of the game. It’s almost impossible to think about your system without also considering the various systems with which it interlinks. 

Let’s face it: as outlined above, your virtual map does not have the space to consider all of this external context. You likely also don’t have the resources, nor the ownership to consider the systems with which your hospital, convention center, or university interacts. Hyperlinks allow you to expand that horizon without the additional ownership or work of expansion required.

Consider just a few of the examples:

  • A convention and visitor’s bureau linking to the virtual tours of all of its hotel partners, regardless of the 360 tour software they use.
  • A university linking out to the resources and visuals of its surroundings, from the town in which it lives to nearby recreational areas and tourism hot spots.
  • A hospital linking to various nearby doctor’s offices and urgent care centers, should the visit to the large campus not be required.

And that’s just the beginning. A state-owned university might also link to other campuses within the state system. A hotel could benefit from the virtual tours of the nearby attractions its guests might be interested in. The list goes on.

The key here is that even with all of these links, ownership is never required. Recognizing that many industries now live in the midst of many interconnected systems, hyperlinks allow you to link to these systems and provide your audience with the full context even as your own virtual tour, or your own digital map, remains the centerpiece and hub of their experience.

That’s where the real power comes in. Through simple (and strategically integrated) hyperlinks, you can create a full user experience that leaves them wanting to come back for more. As a result, you get more satisfied potential and current customers, but also more usability and functionality out of your own map.

How to Leverage Hyperlinks the Right Way in Your 360 Tour Software

The simple power of hyperlinks cannot be overstated. They might be among the oldest existing features in today’s internet experience, but their many use cases—the basis of their longtime survival—continue to make them a powerhouse in today’s digital environment.

Of course, you have to be able to leverage them the right way. A simple collection of links will not only fail to satisfy, but actively confuse your audience. To succeed, you need a mapping software designed for both internal and external linkages.

That’s where we come in. At Concept3D, we strive to make our platform both flexible and robust enough to handle the complexity required in today’s interconnected digital world. Whether you want to link to helpful resources you’ve built yourself, or external resources connected to other stakeholders within the system, you can do so easily within our platform.

You don’t need to retain ownership of all the properties you link to. All you need is a system, both technically and strategically, that helps you build the links out the right way. That’s how you can optimize both user experience and functionality.

Interested in learning more? Let’s talk. We’d love to demo our platform, and show you the power of hyperlinks in virtual tours and interactive maps in action. From hospitality to large events and higher education, you can build a truly comprehensive interactive experience for your audience that maximizes their chances of conversion.

Topics: AccessibilityCampus MapVirtual Tour

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