Maps: Two Product Traps?

Today I’d like to following up on yesterday’s blog post about the downward usability trend of Google Maps, both on mobile and on the web, Knowing nothing about the team that worked and is still working on it, I’d like to offer two of my insights that have caused me to make bad product decisions in the past:

My old car, a 91 Nissan Sentra, had automatic seat belts. Did Nissan think it was smarter than its drivers?

My old car, a 91 Nissan Sentra, had automatic seat belts. Did Nissan think it was smarter than its drivers?

1. Deciding that you know what’s good for the user, more than the user him/herself. This is glorified as the Steve Jobs philosophy as he famously said “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” Unfortunately, we don’t all have the vision and product acumen that Steve Jobs had.

2. Wanting to innovate and be “leading edge” without real justification and without considering the product’s usage patterns and demographics. Google Maps is an app that needs to be functional and very intuitive. Users don’t need to and don’t want to figure out how to get the basic functionalities every time they open the app. They want to open it, get the info they need, and move on. This is what this commenter called “hipster” design.

Conversely, both of these “traps” sometimes lead to great product design. There’s room for introducing new products that users don’t know they need and there is definitely room for UI innovation in every product, but perhaps not for an application as functional and task-driven as Google Maps.

 

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