Product improvement feature – Google Maps

Google touches the lives of so many people around the world everyday. That is what makes it the most successful companies. It is also one of the dream companies I want to work for not just for the compensation, the stock options, the lunch and their cozy offices but the awesome products and services this company gives to this world.

I do not trust any other search engines other than Google :). The first browser application I download and make it a default browser whenever I use a new computer is Google Chrome. No matter, what new paid tool is out there, nothing matches the collaborative power of Google docs and Google sheets, so-on and so forth. Enough of Google’s praise! Now, coming straight to the point of this article.

As an ardent public transport user, I have found one thing lacking in Google Maps which also is one of my favorite Google apps. I am from a generation which can appreciate the utility of Google Maps from the core bottom of my heart if something like that exists. This is not to exaggerate my age. I am in my thirties. Before Google Maps, I have struggled finding places, asking strangers, misled by strangers, yelled upon by strangers, gone round and round around the desired destination, etc.

One thing that stood to me as a useful feature that can be added to Google Maps, particularly the public transport directions is the stop that comes immediately before my desired destination. You may ask me how is that important than the destination itself. That is where I would like to emphasize the importance of user research and putting ourselves in the shoes of the user. The guided navigation probably has the feature where some machine voice will tell me that the next stop is where I must get down when I am on a bus or a train. However, I am not sure what percentage of bus or train riders would love to have a guided navigation for the entire stretch of their journey. It is important to know one stop before the actual destination because that is when I need to signal the driver that I need to get down at the next stop! This is a simple fact for any person who uses public transport regularly.

This is where I propose that Google create a visual hierarchy when displaying the public transport route and show the stop immediately before the desired destination without having to click and view all the stops.

Google maps public transport directions
Public Transport Route Directions in Google Maps

From a product management perspective, what is the lesson here? Empathy cannot stay on paper and in talks. User empathy is real and matters for product design. The best way to develop empathy is to simulate the conditions of the user as much as possible; a 100% if that is possible. In this case, a product designer from Google Maps could have taken a bus to the office daily for a week and would know what features really matter to the user. It is possible that this might have been done and yet, this need escaped! You can also perform what is known as Cognitive Task Analysis (CTA) with the actual users. I will elaborate more about CTA in another article!

Until then, good bye!

About guptasudhir

Sudhir is a product leader with a decade of experience creating economic value using innovative products and services through a human-centered design process. He has proven experience working with teams of all sizes, from startups to large enterprises. Sudhir has the perfect blend of engineering and managerial skills arising out of his research in computer science around machine learning and image processing and entrepreneurial experience of founding an e-learning company. Find out more on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/product-strategist-sudhir-gupta/ or visit my personal website: https://guptasudhir.com/
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