The thing he is missing in his article is that people use maps differently than back in the day. There is search now, so people just enter the name of the town they want to go to and get directions. You also don't have to figure out your current locations because there is GPS to give you a blue dot where you are.
All in all, yes there is less information on the map, but people don't need it anymore to understand where they are or want to go, people use search now.
Right. The new roads aren't there to make the "map seem less empty", they're there so you can easily eyeball an alternate route once one has been plotted out for you.
font-family: "futura-pt"; font-weight: 300;
Almost every other comment on this post is a thoughtful response to the piece and yet this is the most upvoted comment, a critique of the font size...
This is why we can't have nice things... :)
True, but it was pretty hard to read, especially since I'm not on my retina right now.
Yeah this tends to happen on DN, but it was really hard to read.
The D, in DN, stands for Designer.
We like to point out the irony in the critique of a map's readability being unreadable.
Seriously, had to bump up my zoom to 150%.
That's because if the font is too small I can't read the article. I just looked at the pictures; no kidding!
I disagree with many of the conclusions and solutions proposed by the author.
I would imagine the need for a 1930's printed map to be as dense as it was is because you only have one document that has to account for every possible origin and destination possible.
Google Maps on the other hand has user inputs for origin and destination. So all other information is now just noise for 99% of people whom I would imagine use Google Maps to get to a known destination.
I much prefer the design as it stands today. Interesting thoughts though :)
Well, you can't zoom on paper so I guess it cannot really be compared..
TLDR: They removed cities, added roads - likely to optimize for mobile - and it's still less useful than a 1960s map of the same area.
But that's yet another peculiarity with the 2016 maps: the text is always centered directly above or below a city's point icon. Contrast this to the 2010 maps, where a greater variety of label positions was used.
This strikes me as a very deliberate (and smart) decision on Google's part. Consistency is key to scannability.
So many roads have been added and so many others have been upgraded, that the 2016 map is cluttered compared to the 2010 map. [...] With so many roads so close, they all bleed together, and it's difficult to trace the path of any single road with your eyes.
All the labels in the 2010 maps make the map appear way more cluttered than the increase in roads, in this man's opinion.
While I agree that Maps could use some tweaking for general scanning, I find myself agreeing more with the others in this thread that digital mapping tools aren't used in this way. I would bet that Google's data shows the same thing: points of interest are found by searching, not by panning & zooming.
One thing that Justin is missing is a test across different accounts, which I think might show something interesting: Google Maps does not necessarily show the same labels to different users.
This is most obvious in an area a user has visited, with Maps appearing to place a higher weighting on labels around that area, but it seems to go beyond that – when I view Chicago (a city I've never visited), I see a much more detailed map than he does, with towns like St Charles and Elgin clearly marked.
It's hard to determine why this is, but I suspect that Google's solution is more complex than a wholesale removal of labels in favour of roads over time. Instead, my guess is that Maps is taking a huge number of variables into account to serve up custom maps that best suit the needs of different users – and perhaps his usage has resulted in Google stripping small towns from his maps because his usage history suggests these are rarely useful to him (just a hunch).
I prefer it the way it is now vs the proposed solution.
First off, hats off to Justin O'Beirne for writing a very thorough, well-organized and thoughtful piece. Even though I disagree a little with his conclusion, I have total respect for how he mapped out his reasoning.
I agree with most of the comments though: People use map apps much differently than they did in the desktop PC and paper eras. Thanks to features such as text search, traffic mapping and GPS, I believe the priority of what needs to be shown on maps has shifted.
I would add two points: First, map apps make it so easy to pinch and zoom, that interaction mitigates the need to add dots and city labels, which could add noise to the map on a mobile screen.
Second, the increase in unlabeled roads, I would argue, adds value to travelers who want to see how many different options there are to drive to a destination. You might want to see different options, for instance, to avoid traffic, look for scenic waypoints or drive past a certain place on the way. By being able to see more roads at the start, you can better know where to pinch and zoom to see those options.
That said, Ian makes a good point: Perhaps there is value in presenting a more balanced map presentation so that you don't always have to rely on search or pinch and zoom. Maybe the solution is some user-defined setting to customize more location dots vs. more roads.
Over engineering, literally performs worse and loads slower with every release.
The old tile based version runs lightning fast now and actually does the job you want to it, the new one is trying to be too smart for it's own good and runs worse because of it.
I can no longer use it to search for say cafes in a specific area of the city because it will zoom out to show 6 miles worth of city to highlight irrelevant cafes the other side of town (maybe they paid? who knows it's garbage).
From best web app to something I dread to use in just a few years