User Experience

Google Maps Reimagined


In the Fall of 2018, Google sponsored a collaboration for 18 SCAD students with the brief of reimagining the Google Maps App experience for a younger, global audience. The push was for Google Maps to become much more than an app for navigation. With their recent update, Google Maps is driving towards being more content centric. The collaboration lasted for 10 weeks, with 6 weeks dedicated purely on the research aspect of the project. Students within various majors were assigned responsibilities depending upon their core capability. I was assigned the role of a UX designer. The final solution we developed was multifold that is described in detail in the project website, www.mapping.life. The login credentials for exploring the website could be provided upon request.

  • ClientGoogle
  • Duration10 Weeks
  • Websitewww.mapping.life
  • RolesUser Experience Research, User Experience Design, Front-End Development
  • ToolsSketch, Principle, Illustrator, After Effects, Figma, Sublime Text for HTML/CSS
Vision Video

Challenge

Google Maps for a younger generation

The prompt posed the question, What would Google Maps look like if it was designed from the ground-up specifically for mobile youth’s (for ages 18-24) behaviors, needs and aspirations? Navigational apps are primarily used to get from Point A to Point B. Google Maps is moving away from being strictly about navigation, rather incorporate more content and newer discovery based features.


We had to design for a global audience, taking into account all their cultural differences, apart from factors like cost and quality of data, even bandwidth issues that might occur. We were encouraged to come up with solutions using newer technologies and formats such as Augmented/Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence.

Idea

From the Physical world to a Virtual World.

One of the greatest distinctions of Generation Z is an understanding of self not only in the physical world but also in a new virtual world. This is a generation that has grown up amongst digital interfaces and technology that was never available before. 18-24 year olds have an urge to discover their identity through relationships, experiences, communication, introspection and so on.



We were tasked with figuring out a manner in which Google Maps could address this situation, in turn learning to better assist this generation. With ten weeks in hand, we set out a timeline that would enable us to generate a holistic solution that is provocative yet grounded in research.

Research

Dropping all existing, pre-conceived notions

We began the project with conducting both primary and secondary research, interviewing over a hundred people, 50% of which were remote interviews conducted with participants all over the globe. We ended up with a little more than 900 data points which had to be affinitized over two, very long sessions.


Our questions were based around navigation, discovery and mannerisms but we really wanted to get to the real motivation for an 18-24 year old in this day and age. Some insights were quite evident such as the use of social media, incorporation of technology in daily life, but a lot more were quite surprising which helped us generate unique solutions to really cater to the younger generation.

Affinitization 1
971
Data Points
127
Insights
350
Interviews
24
Countries
Affinitization 2
My Contribution

A test of versatility, of knowledge

All my previous knowledge and technical skillset were put to the ultimate test in this collaboration. My past experience in designing apps was mostly sought after and hence the primary role I was assigned was of a User Experience Designer. Despite that I also conducted comprehensive UX Research, starting with 12 interviews, most of them were done remotely with people located in countries such as Pakistan, Germany, Oman, UAE to name a few.


Post the research phase, I was part of the team that designed the visual aesthetic of the app, apart from developing the AR part of the solution. Being a Google project, we stuck to Material Design yet incorporated subtle unique design touches throughout. Being the only computer science engineer on the team, I was also tasked with the additional responsibilty of developing the entire project website which was coded in HTMl, CSS and Javascript.

My Process

Letting your desires guide you

Post conducting the Research phase, we had gathered enough insights to move the Ideation phase. We all split individually and used various ideation techniques (such as intergalactic thinking, crazy eight's) to try and arrive at apt solutions that incorporated multiple insights within.


After presenting all our ideas, we voted for the solutions that were the most unique and encapsulated our learnings the best. My idea of a spontaneous, exploratory feature using Augmented Reality was selected to be part of the overall final solution. For the rest of the duration of our project, I developed this feature in it's entirety from ideation to the final mid-fidelity prototype that was required as the final deliverable.

As it came to be known finally, the "Desire Compass" was trying to facilitate the idea of doing things in the moment. When a person is clueless and wants to jump right into an activity, he/she would utilize AR to see what is around them and be given a subtle idea towards the direction they would head towards. Exploring nature as a means of reducing stress was an important insight. The desire compass incorporates this idea of instilling mindfulness through the exploration of nature, aimless wandering and overall relaxation.


Immediately after finalizing the features, we had to present it to the stakeholders that were visiting us as part of our midterm. They would review the overall concepts and give their feedback. The clients loved the idea of the Desire Compass. They loved how it facilitated exploration in a much more intuitive manner and it's clever utilization of Augmented Reality.

My process began with making the initial screens, trying to figure how the feature would work. I started to figure a rough flow of where the feature would be called from and the elements that needed to come into play. I incorporated this idea of having a subtle, colored glow being used as a visual indication for the direction to head towards.


After some deliberation, the team came to a consensus that we needed to also incorporate custom user categories that would give users a choice of places that they would love to go. Post this stage, we conducted our first User Testing session.

Initial Versions
Initial home screen that would feature custom categories and a toggle to take to the AR Mode.
Once in the AR mode, there would be a disc that features various places that are around in the vicinity.
The disc could be dragged up to see a top-down view and get a over-arching look at every activity happening around.
The initial prototype that was used for the first user testing session, just to get a feel of the idea.

In our preliminary user testing session, we found out that users loved the whole idea of using an AR based feature to learn about their surroundings. They were very into the whole idea of exploring nature as well. We decided to make the idea more comprehensive by adding a lot more detail to what would be displayed.


Some of the ideas that we came up with was to show a detailed insight into the activities that were happening around, almost in a data visualization style through the idea of a compass. The compass representing the innate curiosity that explorers channeled, in order to carve out a map of the world.

Intermediate Version
A search bar was added enabling the user to search out for their specific interests.
A simplified navigation screen was made that shows the direction, distance and the place of interest.
The top-down view was made more comprehensive with a data representation of the density of activities happening.
The AR view also featured an additional tiles of information that would showcase events.

We conducted two more user testing sessions and learnt that users were quite confused with the additional information. They had a tough time trying to figure out how to go about using it. We came to a consensus that we need to simplify and really stick to what the feature is all about - doing things in the moment.


The initial colored glow idea in order to indicate spontaneous locations whilst navigating was somethting that was loved by users. We kept that with the addition of a dynamic pattern that orients and moved around to the users movement. Apart from adding an pleasing aesthetic to the feature, it acted as a unique visual manner of displaying pace, orientation and direction.

Final Version
The landing screen remained essentially the same, showing all the comprehensive informatiton within the disc.
A colored glow directed the user to head towards.
Spontaneous recommendations also appear whilst walking.
A person could pan around to see the recommendation denoted by a different colored glow for a different activity.
Our Final prototype featured a simplified interface helping the user explore along with the spontaneous recommendation tile.

Developing this feature in it's entirety was a test of all my skills that I have learnt so far. It involved designing screens in Sketch, prototyping in Principle, creating elements in Illustrator and finally compositing the whole idea in After Effects. This along with the additional task of coding the entire process website was something I had to undertake and really was a test of a lifetime.


Progress Screenshots

For our final presentation, we decided to do display the solution by taking the stakeholders out for a walk. For explaining the desire compass, I decided to go do some method acting and pretend to be a runner who is having a rough time, interrupting our clients as they walked around Savannah. It represented the idea of doing things spontaneously and trying to encourage the idea of exploration as a means of alleviating stress.


Both our stakeholders were pleasantly surprised and loved the whole skit. This project has been something that has taught me immensely about the human centered design process that goes behind User Experience. It wouldn't have been possible without all the people that were involved and I can never go without being thankful for this project being a part of my journey at SCAD.