Merck : A map to unexpected destinations

An interactive map provides quick access to local office contact information – but then frustratingly transports users away from it. 

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The feature, the global corporate website for US pharmaceuticals company Merck, has a Worldwide Contact Information page. A global map occupies the entire visible part of the page before scrolling on a standard desktop or laptop monitor (see screenshot). 
Each country on the map is coloured either grey or company-brand dark green. Hovering the cursor over a dark green country triggers a pop-up box containing the country name, plus addresses and telephone numbers for local MSD offices. 
Clicking on a dark green country transports users to the home page of the relevant MSD country site if there is one. Grey countries on the map have no information or functionality associated with them.
Below the map is a table listing countries in alphabetical order, with office address, telephone numbers and (where available) country site links for each country. A horizontal set of A-Z anchor links allows users to quickly travel down the listing. 
This listing is not visible to visitors without scrolling. 

The takeaway

MSD’s Worldwide Contacts Information page has a number of strengths:
- It is prominently signposted via a self-explanatory ‘Worldwide’ link, accompanied by an intuitive globe icon, in the permanent site header.
- The map is cleanly presented, with elegantly executed mouseover functionality. 
- The tabular listing of country office contact details below the map is comprehensive and makes intelligent use of anchor links to help users travel rapidly to the relevant country information.
However, two key weaknesses risk frustrating and disorientating visitors to this page:
- The fact that clicking on a country on the map leads to a country site home page, rather than deeper country contact information – as the title of the page promises to deliver – is likely to be unexpected, unhelpful and confusing for many visitors. The pop-up boxes do contain a very small-font caption, eg ‘Click on country to visit MSD in Spain’, but this is easily overlooked by first-time visitors. Moreover, country site home pages we visited do not contain contact information. 
- The useful A-Z country contact directory below the map is very easily missed by visitors, because it is not visible without scrolling, and there is no clue above the scroll line about its existence.
First published 24 April, 2018
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