Add a stop

About a month ago, after taking a class in San Francisco, I needed to find the closest freeway onramp to start my drive back home. So I drove in the general direction of the freeway and activated google maps to help guide the way. Then I noticed I was out of gas. Ok, so upon returning to google maps to find a gas station I see I need to exit the current directions, start a new search and then calculate myself what search results are “on the way.” Not a huge deal but I thought why the heck can’t the smart folks at Google add a little feature that keeps travelers on their current route and simply “add a stop?” The primary use cases that came to mind were: gas, restrooms, coffee, food, etc…

Over the next couple days I thought it would be fun to sketch out how it might look and think about the flow. The following sketches are not dated but I swear they are prior to the latest map update. (My toddler is responsible for the scribbles over some of the mocks.)

Fast forward to the night of March 2, when I happened to open up the updated Google maps and saw this:

First thing I noticed was the floating button. I knew exactly what it was before even pressing it…Sure enough, it was “add a stop” — an idea too good to not surface itself.

At this point it was just fun to see how they did it and what UX and design decisions that were made. I was thinking of something a little more subtle that could be invoked from an icon in the footer, reveal a number of suggested categories that popup from the bottom with an option for a custom search which would appear in the familiar search spot on top. They went with a more prominent floating icon at the top which invokes the suggestions on an overlay. Judging by the prominence and size of the icons (along with the text labels and spacing) they are clearly going with primary use case of searching while driving. Not recommending this behavior personally but it’s a fact most drivers are multitasking and making it easy = making it safer for everyone around you.

I’m looking forward to using it again in a real life need situation and seeing how it performs. They have not added public restrooms as a discreet option, perhaps they figured users would just go to gas stations, etc. for that — or because they’re really aren’t many of them anyways. I still think there’s a huge use case for that. Also, I don’t entirely agree with the timer to confirm the add stop. I understand the problem though: The original directions should not be compromised prior to the user deciding to add a stop. So say I’m in a hectic traffic circle or something and I need to know where to turn out — I need for the original instructions to proceed as normal prior to a user confirming they want to detour. Google has decided to give an arbitrary time of like 3 seconds for user to select the detour and then it goes away if not selected. I think a better solution is to have the option be contextual: say I’m in said traffic circle and miss the turn off to the gas station, the option should cancel out. But if I am on a deserted highway and have 2 hours before the next gas station or other turn, I see no need to put the timer on at all. Just let the user accept or cancel as long as it’s prior to the next turn or the stop itself. Overall I think Google has done a great job with the feature and it gives me a tiny sense of satisfaction to see my idea validated by the search giant.