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Taking a Drive

Modifying Google Maps to get to point A to B in a stress free way.

2 weeks
Sole Designer
My Role:
UX Research


“What’s going on with Google Maps?” I asked this question multiple times over the course of two weeks. The paragon of internet navigation, with hundreds of developers and designers on hand, was still causing users to become frustrated. Why was this happening?


To gain insight into how users interacted with Google Maps, I conducted interviews, surveys, and a task analysis. A pattern of pain points started to appear throughout the research process. 

User Interviews

8 participants 

User Survey

11 participants 

Task Analysis

4 participants 

Pain Point 1

The current UI makes it tedious for users to get the information they value most. 

Currently, when not in drive mode, users find the information they value most by opening up the steps function and dissecting the list of directions that are given to them.

​“The steps list is very long and a lot of scrolling is needed even for simple directions.”

Users wanted a faster and more efficient way to know which of the major roads they would have to access during their drive.

 Of the 11 users that I surveyed, 7 of them wanted a condensed overview of their drive.

Pain Point 2

Users don’t know where they are in context to their overall trip when they are in drive mode.

“It takes three steps to get to the freaking directions that I asked for”-Frustrated User

Many users were unaware that you could access the next step of directions by swiping left on the screen, but there's no affordance available for users to know this.

Pain Point 3

Street view pictures are distracting when viewing steps to get the most important piece of information.

Part of the user's frustration was that whenever they did open up the steps function, they would be met with a bunch of street-view pictures. 


This caused clutter and distracted users from getting the information they needed most. 


Drivers are having difficulty accessing real-time directions on the road because what they see on the screen contradicts the intuitive interface they expected to use.

How Might We

It was daunting to add a design rethink to a highly successful interface that billions of users rely on. Not only did I have to honor Google’s vision, I also had to accommodate the users pain points that limited them from having an enjoyable experience.

One “How Might We” didn’t seem like a wide enough net to cast. It felt necessary to ask these three questions:

How Might We # 1

How might we create an easy way for drivers to immediately locate the main roads that they need to access from the very start of their journey?

How Might We # 2

How might we rethink a safe and accessible way for drivers to access next-step directions while they are in drive mode?

How Might We # 3

How might we create a condensed list of step-by-step directions that give a clear and clutter-free overview of the driver’s journey?

Design Rethink

I started to base my sketches off of the pain points that users communicated with me. I addressed each individual pain point through multiple iterations.
Incorporating Pop-Ups, Listings, and Iconography for the main routes that users would drive on were different ways in which users could easily identify the main route for their drive.

Iteration # 1

Adding a border around the main highways would make clear which roads to use.

Iteration # 2

Using icons to indicate the main highways would make it easy for users to instantly know where they would have to go.

Steps Iteration 

Since users complained about the difficulty of finding their exact location while in steps mode, I decided to highlight the exact spot that they were in. This way they would be able to immediately locate where they were in their journey.

Based on the survey results, I also eliminated street-view for any direction that wasn't the starting point or main destination.

Current Solution

Improved Solution

Users biggest pain point came when they were on the road. They wanted to instantly get their next steps, but were unaware of the swipe feature, due to a lack of an affordance, which led them to zoom out. Adding a drop-down menu would make it faster and safer to access their next steps.
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Current Solution

Improved Solution

No Affordance.png

Usability Testing

In order to have a firm belief that my design decisions would compliment Google’s vision, I conducted a usability test. The sample size was small, but I received positive feedback. Users seemed to appreciate the icons of the major roads to access, and preferred it over writing.

Users also found it helpful to see the green highlights inside the direction list. Moving forward, I would like to test the design with more users.

Final Solution

Next Steps

During the task analysis, I noticed that two users zoomed out in order to see where they were in relation to their overall drive. I attempted to address this with the drop-down menu but I know that there are other solutions that can be implemented.


With more time, I'll be able to discover, design, and A/B test solutions that work best for users. There’s still a lot more to solve, but for now, I’ll take a step back and be proud that I did some good.

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