I’ve just received this email from Nate Tyler at Google.
Hope you’re enjoying the weekend. I work on the Google Maps team and just saw your post on Google Maps navigation. Thank you very much for the concern. Wanted to be sure you and your readers are aware that we have pushed an update to the latest release of Maps for Mobile to fix this issue. If there’s any chance to update your story with this information we would very much appreciate that. And if you have any questions please feel free to email me back.
A quick drive around my neighbourhood confirms that the update (7.0.1) has fixed the roundabout issue. Well done Google for a swift resolution.
Round and Round and Round We Go
A lot of ink has been spilled over the sudden and unwelcome removal of useful features from the new Google Maps. The lack of easy offline support, and the brutal removal of Latitude are deeply annoying. Worryingly, I think there has been a substantial change which is potentially very dangerous for drivers relying on Google Maps for navigation.
One of the core principles of usability is that in high stress situations, information should be available at a glance. When the user only has a fraction of a second to glance at the display – the most relevant information must be displayed in a simple, predictable, and accurate manner.
Now, take a look at this screenshot of the driving directions Google Maps gave me.
The top bar is designed for glancing at. A quick flick of my eyes tells me to turn left on to Oriental Road.
If I spend longer looking at the screen – and take my eyes away from the road for more time – I’ll see that I need to turn right.
Which is it? I now have two conflicting pieces of information. It is probably correct to follow the blue line. This interface is now ambiguous, which means I have to spend more time figuring out which aspect of the UI to trust, and less time concentrating on the road.
We’ve all driven in stressful situations – how much more stressful would it be if you suddenly found out your map was lying to you?
This isn’t an isolated incident. Yesterday, I noticed the discrepancy on both major and minor roads.
I’ve trusted Google Maps to get me to job interviews on time, to drive through unfamiliar cities in foreign countries, and stop me driving the wrong way late at night.
It is irresponsible to have your user interface contradict itself – worse than that, in the case of apps designed to be used a 70MPH it’s potentially very dangerous.