Tourism Tuesday: our series recognizing the importance of travel and tourism to small town business. The discussion in the comments section is always the best part.
In Scotland, while staying in Stirling, we picked up a driving tour brochure. It listed a monument to the McRae Clan in the nearby Sheriffmuir area. Being good McCrays, we had to go try to find it. The problem is that the instructions were nearly indecipherable to us and in tiny little print. That got me thinking about how to write better directions for your visitors.
Who are you really writing for? People who are not from here, maybe not even from this country. People who don’t know the shorthand and common names for things. Your visitors will try to match up your directions to maps, to their printed itineraries, and if it’s too tough, you’re just frustrating them.
With all that in mind, here are the top ways to write better directions for your tourist visitors:
- Give plenty of space to directions in your materials. Do not pack them into a tiny space in a teeny font. Visitors have to read these while driving.
- Define the exact starting point, and pick one that is easy to find.
- For intersections, you can say whether to turn left or right, but also include the direction (north, south, etc.). Include a landmark at the corner and the street names where ever possible.
- For roundabouts or traffic circles, include the turn position (first turn, etc.), as well as identify the road by the destination and road number, exactly like it is posted on the signs at the site.
- Include every single step. Drive through the route and make notes. This has to be the most frustrating and common flaw in directions: the missed step.
- Use your “enter” key. Start a new line for each step.
- Include where to park when they arrive.
- If you are doing multi-part directions, like a tour of several locations, make it easy to figure out how to skip one or more sights without throwing off the whole thing. Not every visitor wants to see every single thing on your tour. (Sorry.)
- Write your directions to be simple enough to convey by text message or to read from a mobile phone’s screen. Both technologies are possible, right now.
- Ask a non-local to review your directions.
- Even better: Get a visitor to try them out while you watch silently.
- Keep them up to date. Make a special trip to update driving directions once a year.
What tips do you have for writing better directions?
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Vadim Tchernine says
Great read, I also think that small businesses need to get away from basically drawing maps in MS Paint on their brochures. It looks tacky and unprofessional.
The easiest solution would be to use something like maps.google.com – First input the location where most people would start from ( or at least around there), then input the final destination. Let Google Maps do all the work, they will provide a step by step guide and a nice looking map.
Becky McCray says
Vadim, you’re right. We’ve all seen our share of ugly maps. You can even use Google Maps for multiple destination trips.
Christopher, directory submission service says
Apart from the traditional printed maps now-a-days many devices (like smartphones) are available with in-built GPS and map services. It will be worthwhile to give them a try.
Becky McCray says
Christopher, we need to start talking about the specific ways that small towns can start taking advantage of those devices.
One way to do it is actually placing your business into google maps. The large majority of tourists will research where they go before going there. This post talks about it for a hardware store, but it can be used for any business: http://www.myretailer.ca/index.php/randy-the-painter-knows-how-to-target-his-customers/
Becky McCray says
Thanks, Vadim. I have claimed the Google Local listing for my store, and I think it makes a difference.
In your own (not Google) maps, I’d highly include mileage and time between steps. Then I’d know if I drove for an hour between steps that were 10 minutes apart…