Day 2 (part III): UX review of Google Maps for saving a place of my interest

User stories #1 and #2 concern how the app helps the user have a pleasant trip.

User story #3 focuses on how the user makes the app more useful to their needs. That is, how the user can save the places of their interest to the map:

As a travel lover,

I want to take note of the places of my interest

so I can visit them when I have a chance in the future

Before the current pandemic started, whenever I had a chance to visit a foreign city, I would search for web articles on the city such as New York Times’s “36 Hours in…” series, and take note of the places that attract my attention.

Or during the conversation with a friend of mine, I may learn about an interesting place to visit. I want to take note of it immediately, before I forget about it.

Or I’m walking around a city and find an interesting place. But I don’t have time right now. I may want to visit the place tomorrow. So I want to take note of it right away.

How does Google Maps allow us to do this? The experience differs between the iOS app and the desktop web app.

For the iOS app, searching for a place shows the place info at the lower third of the mobile screen. Partly hidden on the bottom right corner is the button to save the place.

A screenshot of Google Maps on iOS (version 5.58), showing the search result for know cafe, my favorite cafe in Kyoto. The partly-hidden button on the bottom right is the button for saving the place. The user needs to scroll horizontally first to actually tap the button.

Tapping the Save button will show the list of the user’s lists:

A screen shot of Google Maps on iOS (version 5.58) after tapping the Save button in the place info pane. “Favorites”, “Want to go”, and “Starred Places” are the default lists provided by Google. The rest is the lists I have created to take note of where I can park my bicycle in Kyoto, throw rubbish, the venues of an art festival held last year, and the restaurants featured in an online magazine called Kyoto Life.

Then I can tap the empty circles on the right, to select the list to which I want to save the place. What’s nice is I can add a place to more than one list. So these lists work like tags, rather than folders.

A screen shot of Google Maps on iOS (version 5.58) where two lists have been chosen to save a place to.

Adding a note to the place is easy: as shown in the above screenshot, you can simply type text in the text field that appears after tapping the empty circle.

You can also create a new list as indicated at the top of the screen.

What’s not great, though, is that I cannot change the place name. The name provided by Google may not be how I call the place.

For the desktop web version, after searching for a place, the save button appears on the second from the left. No need to scroll to reveal it. That’s better than the iOS app:

A screen shot of Google Maps on desktop Chrome on April 1, 2021. Notice the pink icon on the left panel. that’s the button to tap to save the place. In this case, I’ve already saved the place to “Favorites”, which is why it is conspicuously pink.

Once tapping the Save button, however, I can only save the place to a single list at a time. To save a place to multiple lists, I need to repeat this process…

A screenshot of Google Maps on desktop Chrome on April 1, 2021, after clicking the Save button in the place info pane.

Once saved, the text link “Add note” appears, the clicking of which launches a text box to enter:

A screen shot of Google Maps on desktop Chrome on April 2, 2021, after clicking “Add note” on the left pane.

So far we focus on the places Google has already listed in its database. However, there’s also a situation where I want to save unlisted locations. One example is a bike parking lot. After the pandemic started, I bought a bicycle. But Kyoto City, where I live, is not very bike-friendly. Parking lots for bicycles are not easy to find. Whenever I find one, I want to take note of it so that I don’t need to look around next time I visit the same area of Kyoto.

So a spin-off edition of User Story #3 is:

As a cyclist,

I want to take note of parking lots for bicycles

so I won’t need to look around to park my bike next time I visit the area

How does Google Maps iOS app deal with this user story?

Once launching the app, I can tap the location on the map to “drop a pin”. Then tap the Label chip to name the pin.

Once the name is added, swipe up the location info pane to reveal the “SAVE” button. Then I can add it to my list(s), along with my own note, exactly in the same way as for Google-listed places.

All these custom locations can be seen in the “Labeled” list.

However, when the “Labeled” place is added to any of the other lists, including Favorites and Want To Go, its label doesn’t appear in the list. Here’s an example:

Google Maps on iOS (version 5.58), after tapping my list entitled Bicycle parking lots. All the dropped pins do not display its label.

Once tapping one of these dropped pins, the map showing the pin appears with the label displayed:

A screenshot of Google Maps on iOS (version 5.58), after tapping “Dropped pin” in the previous screen. The label I’ve added “Fresco Rakusai-guchi” is now shown.

Summary

Aside from a few glitches, Google Maps does a fairly good job for implementing User Story #3. My Ideal Map App should follow its design with the glitches fixed, by having the following features:

  1. Typing a place name in the search field will show a place with the button to save it to the user’s list(s).
  2. Tapping this save button lists up the user’s lists of saved places. The user can choose multiple lists to which the new place will be added. These user lists act as tags. (Probably better to call them tags, rather than “lists” as Google Maps does.)
  3. The user can always create a new list (or tag) to which the new place will be added.
  4. On the same screen, the user can add a note to the newly added place. Pasting an URL will turn it into a text link.
  5. On the same screen, the user can change the name of a place as they wish.
  6. Tapping a location on the map will drop a pin and launch a text box window in which the user can enter a place name and a note, and choose which tags to add.
  7. The “dropped pin” places appear similarly to Google-registered places.
  8. Both mobile and desktop apps provide the same user experiences.

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