Google Maps Updated with New Design for the First Time in Years

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Google released an update to their eponymous Maps service.

Product Manager Liz Hunt revealed changes focusing on prioritizing the information presented, what is displayed according to the user situation, and how it is displayed in the UI in terms of icon and colors.

Maps Will Present the User with the Most Relevant Information

Google states that Maps will present differing information according to whether the user is traveling by car, on foot or in transit (trains, buses, etc.). For example, highlighting gas stations for a car journey, cafes if walking through the same area and transport hubs if the user takes a train.

Google Maps Design

The most visually apparent change will be the color scheme with Google adopting a color code for different points of interest. Health is pink for example, food and drink establishments are orange, and if you are seeking a church or place of worship, that’ll be a steel blue.

The full list of color-coded points of interest:

  • Food and Drink – Orange
  • Shopping – Blue
  • Health – Pink
  • Entertainment and Leisure – Turquoise
  • Civil Services – Sea Blue
  • Worship – Steel Blue
  • Outdoor – Green
  • Transportation – Cyan
Google Maps Colors

Each category is further supported by a plethora of individual icons. There are icons that differentiate an aquarium from a zoo and a synagogue from a mosque. Google’s cheat sheet can be found here.

Google Maps Morphing from Navigation Toward Lifestyle

The update appears to be largely front end, usability orientated, and not algorithmic. Google hopes that these visual tweaks will make it easier for users to find the local points of interest most relevant to them at a particular moment in time.

Over the past couple of years, Google has transformed its Maps app from one focusing on roads, to one focusing on places. In doing so it has made it a lifestyle app in addition to an accomplished navigation app. A more detailed look at this morphing can be found here.

Fierce Competition Promotes Innovation

The competition among mapping apps for both iOS and Android operating systems is fierce and Google has long enjoyed an advantage over the competition. Google Maps first appeared on the desktop in 2005 and as a mobile app in 2008 stealing the march on competitors from the outset.

In recent years Waze, Apple Maps and HERE WeGo have closed the gap, each featuring a slightly different approach to the task of finding our way around. Waze prides itself on utilizing real-time data to alert users to traffic jams etc. HERE WeGo sports perhaps the simplest interface for ease of use.

Google Maps Icons

Mapping is a must have app for almost all smartphone users, and the competition for market share encourages constant updates and innovation. Apple and Google have poured huge resources into their apps. With this update, Google Maps is clearly aiming to cement its position as arguably the most versatile, balancing depth of information with usability.

The company plans to roll out the update across the entire suite of Google apps over the next few weeks. Assistant, Earth, Search and Android Auto will all adopt the changes, and in addition, third-party apps using the Google Maps API will also reflect the changes over time.

The last major update for Google Maps was back in 2013 (2014 for the mobile version). Google is interested in greater consistency of experience across its range of apps. Google Maps can be downloaded free of charge for most operating systems.

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1 Comment
  1. Sandy Campbell Nov 22, 7:06 pm

    Accuracy aside (I wouldn’t trust any other app for driving directions), the Google Maps app is still a mess compared to Apple Maps. The transit lines are still unusable and incomplete. Color-coded points of interest are a stupid idea that turn a map into an incomprehensible jumble. State borders are still virtually invisible, and the only feature that shows up are roads. Google Maps – and most other Google apps – look like they were designed by engineers with little consideration for usability.

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