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September 20, 2007

Google Maps Brainstorming

In this video, Google Maps team from New York tries to figure out how to display the information about a business in a better way. The brainstorming doesn't generate too many ideas, but one Googler admits that the interface is "unreadable".

Even if Google shows a lot of information, it doesn't do a good job at helping you find a place you like. If you search for a pizza place in New York, Google Maps shows the same results for everyone and you can't refine your query with details about the menu, delivery area, price or the amount of recent positive reviews. Google Maps could also let you add a business to your favorites and personalize the search results based on your bookmarks and search history. As for the presentation, it would be nice to compare the results side by side and choose what are the most relevant criteria for comparison.

Anyway, here's the Google Maps brainstorming. Maybe you can help Google find the best way to structure the interface.


  1. Apparently you're not supposed to say "brainstorm" anymore as it's offensive to people with mental disabilities. Instead you should call it a "mindshower".

    I don't agree... it's Political Correctness gone mad. In Britain anyway.

  2. And what about people who've lost their minds.

    that's just dumb. I'll say brainstorming.

  3. It seems like we're missing the intent/mode of the user.

    Is the user locating something, exploring an area, or comparing alternatives?

    When I´m locating something I just need information that allows me to see if this is ´the right one´.

    When I´m exploring an area I want to know about relevance-vs.-distance and salient information.

    When I'm comparing I want detailed information along which to compare.

    Google needs to learn that mode/intent/purpose should not just be used to find the right information, it should also be used to hide irrelevant information!

  4. I have a another great idea! Google Maps could stop buying data from companies that include restaurants and coffee houses that have been out of business for years. I know in my own neighborhood there are two or three of these ghost restaurants known only to Google Maps.

  5. I have used the driving directions and they usually work OK, but we got hopelessly lost last week when the street names didn't match and I couldn't make sense of the tiny thumbnails I'd printed. Guess there is no substitute for a paper map that ties the little thumbnails together, and includes what you'll find if you make a wrong turn.

    I'm using the map search currently to look for a house over a wide geographical area. Most of the time the only thing I need to know is what neighborhood a specific address is in. For this, the satellite feature has been enormously helpful, especially when you overlay it with a street map.

    Is there any way to just show the map and not the "search results"? I have a laptop and over half my screen space is taken up by this junk.

    I have looked all over for a nice clear navigable map. Google is the easiest by far to center, zoom, etc. and loads faster than some of the others, but I want to scream every time a pop-up ad obscures my map. Rand McNally, for example, has a great simple interface -- you can type an address and see a clear picture of the result almost instantly -- but is more difficult to move around once you're there.

    Online map searching should be as quick as looking at a paper map. I know that the ads are what finance the online maps, but maybe there is some way to get them in there without bogging down the usability. I would guess that most people are not looking for local services and attractions. I know that this thing is in its infancy and someday we will have current info on most locations, but for now the randomly popping up, often misleading or outdated businesses are not especially helpful.

    Sorry to rant about this but I use online maps just about every day and I would love to have a fast, efficient map at my fingertips.

  6. Thanks for the interesting comment. To hide the sidebar that shows search results, click on the small arrow that separates the sidebar from the map. You can also try this small app, written by a former Google Maps developer.

  7. When I´m locating something I just need information that allows me to see if this is ´the right one´.


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