This past weekend I had a car trip to make into unfamiliar territory, and I finally got to try out the newly-accepted Google Maps on my iPhone.
Google has dumped a lot of time, money and effort into amassing and updating the world's best consumer-targeted map database, and generously provided it for free. I don't want to be one of those people that complains about free stuff, like the whiners who moan about Facebook features—what do you, want your money back?—but I do have to point out how a single poor design decision can needlessly hamper an otherwise great product.
Nearly every unfamiliar-destination car trip I've taken in the past three years has been guided by Google Maps. I have the directions in my phone, which I prop onto the dashboard, in "map" view, so I can see at a glance where I am along the route.
Well, for this iteration the graphic designers have decided to make the route line blue. They've also decided to make the dot that represents you blue as well. The "you" dot doesn't blink, or have a strong drop shadow, or feature a reticle around it, and it's just a hair-width thicker than the route line, which makes it virtually impossible, while driving, to see where you are along the route.
What were they thinking? Why on Earth wouldn't you make the dot a different color, or provide some kind of graphic distinction? Isn't visual feedback basically UI Design 101? Does no one observe how people actually use the product in the real world? This is absolutely mind-boggling to me.
After spending millions of dollars and man-hours to get this product right, not a single person working at the company had the foresight to make a zero-cost change that would vastly improve the experience. It irritates me to no end when one of the world's more powerful companies ignores basic design common sense.