4 Tips to Improve Geolocation UX

Geolocation is an alternative way to search by location. Here's what to consider when deciding how to implement user geolocation on your local pages.

By Kristen O'Toole

Feb 5, 2019

3 min

When a consumer searches for something nearby, they're often asked for their current location (usually a combination of street, city, county, or postcode). This requires effort — thinking about where they are, typing, and finally submitting those details. And often, the location information they do type in is too general to yield an accurate list of nearby spots. So increasingly, many sites now offer an alternative way to search by location — geolocation.

By using the GPS or IP address of a searcher's device, a website can collect a person's specific latitude and longitude. This geolocation can yield more accurate results, and requires less of the searcher. Because it's so useful, some sites have begun automatically geolocating visitors, as a way to reduce the steps needed to get them relevant results.

But this auto-geolocation can actually be jarring and confusing, and may inadvertently have a negative impact on brand trust.

Here are a few things to consider when deciding how to implement user geolocation on your local pages:

Security and Brand Trust

Over 95% of Americans are concerned about how businesses handle their online data. A prompt asking for a visitor's data as soon as they land on the page will put security-minded consumers on the defensive, and will likely cause bounces — and damage trust in the website or brand. Ause my location button can be a much better way to implement geolocation, as it sets the expectation for them to approve this use of their location data.

Web Browsing Reflexes

Due to common advertising methods, many people have developed reflexes to close unexpected pop ups. So when a pop up asks them for permission to use their location, immediately on page load, that goes against their expectations — and they're likely to deny it reflexively.

Poor User Experience

A pop up only gives the user one chance to approve of geolocation. If they close the auto-geolocation prompt out of reflex, there is no obvious way for them to change their mind and opt in. Additionally, auto-geolocation ignores consumers who are hoping to search in a location other than the one they're currently in. Waiting for the page to load, only to receive results they didn't ask for, will surely cause unnecessary frustration and a negative experience with your brand.

Accessibility Compliance

Web accessibility is becoming increasingly important for companies to consider when designing their pages. The World Wide Web Consortium has put together a collection of web accessibility guidelines, which many use as the standard for web accessibility. One rule from those guidelines states that a page should not change state without user input. With auto-geolocation, the page loads, and then immediately changes to prompt the user for data permissions. Any site that aims to meet WCAG 2.0 standards should not use auto-geolocation on page load. Rather, the user must perform some input to activate geolocation.

Geolocation is a powerful tool that can be very helpful for consumers as they attempt to find local results. But when implemented poorly, it can cause confusion and a loss of trust in your website. By using an interactive link near the search bar instead, you make it easy for your customers to choose whether or not to allow geolocation at any point during their interactions with your page.

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