Redesigning Maps: Google details the app’s evolution

google maps evolution explained screen shot 2014 06 26 at 6 31 12 pm

Google Maps is one of Google’s biggest, most interesting projects. Google is regularly making changes to Maps, and the product that users see today is vastly different to the one rolled out eight years ago. During its “Redesigning Google Maps” session at Google I/O 2014, designers Jonah Jones and Annette Leong detailed the journey to the current version of Google Maps and what is coming in the future.

Google Maps initially launched in 2005, and recently underwent the product’s biggest re-design, which Google announced last year. The changes and overhauled design rolled out slowly and are now the default Google Maps experience. Google Maps is now “dynamic and full screen” and “adapts to every click.” It is also more streamlined and simpler for the average Joe to use.

Maps had begun to become cluttered and was in need of a redesign to make it possible for users to easily access all of the information contained within the app. The app’s design team realized that it needed to make some changes to help users make the most of Maps.

“The best design, people won’t even notice it. It will work and get out of the way,” Jones said.

“We felt the existing mapping products were basically taking an old, scanned map” and adding pins and a search bar. Addressing this was part of the first of three lessons that Google Maps lead designer Jonah Jones took from the project: “Think big.”

The second lesson Jones focused on was “question everything.” As an example, Jones walked through the visual changes from the original Google Maps to how it appears today. That process consisted of questioning why things were done another way before and figuring out how to make it better. Google took inspiration from how a person might draw a map “on the back of a napkin,” only showing the important landmarks rather than showing all of the possible information. This is visible in the new Google Maps, which highlights important roads and blends less relevant paths into the background. That way, users don’t suffer from information overload and simply see what they need to see.

“The best design, people won’t even notice it. It will work and get out of the way,” Jones said.

Additionally, the search bar has been improved. Previously, the search results not only yielded less-than-relevant results on the map, but also displayed the information twice: once in a side bar and once with the pin on the location. Annette Leong walked through some of the previous design iterations before they landed on the current design, with the results displayed below the search bar and easy to hide so as to not take up extra space on the map. That way, users can read the map more easily.

The final lesson explored during the “Redesigning Google Maps” session was “listen to users.” This applied directly to the speed of Google Maps, which users often complained about. While the new Google Maps performed faster than previous iterations, people with older computers found that the burden of the new Google Maps took too long to load. The solution to the problem was to load the maps tiles first, so as to improve the perceived speed and allow users to access the information they want.

Google also found that people weren’t using Google Street View the way they wanted to. Most people didn’t navigate using the system, actually moving around on the street. A simple change in the cursor that appears on Street View increased Street View usage by three times its previous usage rate. Leong also detailed the plight of “Pegman,” the small, yellow stick figure that can be planted on the map to activate Street View. Google took it away briefly, but received enough user requests to bring him back, and he is currently still available in the new Google Maps platform.

Google’s designers left the audience with the takeaway of the three lessons of design and encouraged the developers within the audience to take the advice of their overhaul of a product designed for a billion users and apply it to their own projects.


Benchmark scores surface for Google's midrange Pixel 3 XL Lite

The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are considered to be two of the best Android smartphones, but it looks like Google could be prepping a midrange line. Say hello to the Pixel 3 Lite and Pixel 3 Lite XL.

Google Fi is getting support for the next-gen messaging standard, RCS Chat

Google has been pushing the development of the RCS Chat standard, and now it's finally bringing that new standard to its own carrier -- Google Fi. With Chat, customers will get features like read receipts, better group messaging, and more.
Home Theater

Smart speakers the likely cause of Chromecast Audio’s untimely demise

Goodbye Chromecast Audio, we hardly knew you. Google confirms rumors that it has killed Chromecast Audio, the inexpensive wireless music streamer that let people breathe new life into their old audio systems.
Home Theater

Sonos teases Google Assistant integration once again at CES 2019

It's been a very long road for Sonos customers who have been patiently waiting for the company to make good on its promise to integrate Google Assistant into its platform. With a working demo at CES, it's now closer than ever.

If you're looking for a good laugh, here are 70 questions to ask Siri

Siri has come a long way since her first appearance on the iPhone 4S in 2011. We know she can make appointments and give directions, did you know she can make you laugh too? If you want proof, here are lots of funny questions to ask Siri.

Benchmark results show Snapdragon 855 destroys previous-generation chip

Almost exactly a year after the launch of the Snapdragon 845, Qualcomm took the wraps off of its next-generation mobile platform, the new Snapdragon 855. The new chip puts an emphasis on A.I. performance.

AT&T jumps the gun with deliberately misleading 5GE launch

As excitement about 5G networks continues to build, AT&T jumps the gun with a ridiculous and deliberate attempt to deceive the public with 5G Evolution – a speed bump that’s based on improvements to 4G tech.

We tried all the latest and greatest smartphones to find the best of 2019

Smartphones are perhaps the most important and personal piece of tech on the planet. That’s why it’s important to pick the best phone for your individual needs. Here are the best smartphones you can buy.

On a budget? We found the best affordable smartphones you can buy

Here are the best cheap phones for anyone working with a tight budget, whether you're a fan of stock Android or marathon battery life. Find out what you can get for under $500 or far, far less as we round up the best budget smartphones.

Apple’s official iPhone XS battery case is finally here

Apple has been rumored to be working on a new iPhone battery case for the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR. Now, those new cases are finally here, offering seven hours of extra use for each iPhone and are available for $129.
Social Media

Twitter extends its new timeline feature to Android users

Twitter users with an Android device can now quickly switch between an algorithm-generated timeline and one that shows the most recent tweets first. The new feature landed for iPhone users last month.

Apple’s iPhone battery offer was reportedly way more popular than expected

As many as 11 million iPhone owners reportedly made use of Apple's cheaper battery replacement offer that launched in 2018 in response to the iPhone throttling debacle — some 10 times more than the company had apparently expected.

Rekindled yet again, Nokia’s next-gen phones offer more than just nostalgia

HMD Global, a startup that designs and builds Nokia Android smartphones, wants to put the Nokia brand name back “where it belongs.” It helps that it’s made up of ex-Nokia employees. We go behind the scenes to see how HMD formed.

Could this be our first look at the design of the 2019 iPhone?

While it's not been long since the last iPhones launched, rumors for the next iPhone are already surfacing. Apple's 2019 flagship could include a variety of upgrades ranging from a new design to enhanced features.