My feedback for Microsoft's mapping team

The Virtual Earth team wants our feedback.

Wonderful. Kudos to any company that wants its customers’ feedback and offers a participatory approach. So, here’s my feedback…

Microsoft added a LOT of whizbang features to its maps.live.com maps (3D, lots of photos, and such) but they didn’t focus on the basics.

First off, you need a redesign. Google is kicking your ass on simplicity. Microsoft’s UIs always seem to get more clutter. Your team should hire Ev Williams to come and give his talk that he just gave at LeWeb3. Get rid of stuff, don’t add it.

2. Mobile. Make it killer and do whatever it takes to get it on the iPhone.

3. Show examples of how to do great searches. Google does, you don’t (at least not before you get into a search box). Google is easier to use because of it.

4. Make it work for what people use maps for. Today I picked up Patrick at his school. I forgot how to get there. Patrick said “just search Google Maps for Petaluma Jr. High.” When I saw this note I tried the same on Microsoft’s system. Hint: Google worked, Microsoft didn’t.

5. Speed. Google is always faster everytime I try it. That doesn’t give me confidence that Microsoft is working on the right things.

6. When I search for “Mavericks, Half Moon Bay, CA” Google finds me a result, Microsoft doesn’t.

7. Split all the different views into different URLs. Have a page where I can select between them. If I wasn’t a former MSFTie I’d have no clue what the difference between “Aerial” and “Bird’s Eye View” is.

8. I still have no clue what “collections” are. “Saved Locations” explains what they are much better.

9. Don’t be pedantic. When I asked it to give me directions to PodTech’s offices it tried to correct my zip code from 94304 to 94304-1216. Google wasn’t annoying like that.

10. Microsoft’s maps look cooler (they show mountain terrain, etc) but are harder to read, particularly on laptop screens in bright sunlight. I find I actually switch to Google for this reason. Most of the time I really don’t need terrain, or pretty pictures, but just want a simplistic, easy to see in bright sunlight, map.

11. DO continue to kick Microsoft’s behind with Traffic data (I’m sure there’s other data you could overlay on the map the way you do with accident data, right?)

12. Redesign your directions results. Google got nine items in the same space that you only got six. I often look up maps on my laptop and that DOES make a difference!

13. My Location. My Location. My Location. My Location. My Location. My Location. My Location. My Location. My Location. My Location. My Location. My Location. My Location. My Location. My Location. My Location. My Location. My Location. That’s the best feature on ANY software I’ve used this year. I was showing it to Patrick today and it made him go “wow.” Not available on iPhone, but only on Google’s Mobile Maps version. This was a MAGICAL feature over in Europe!

14. You don’t understand the magic of the word “link.” I can always figure out Google Maps and how to embed it into my blog. It’s tough for me to figure out how to link to a Microsoft Map. Yeah, I’m an idiot so you might write that off as idiotic behavior but, remember, I worked the Microsoft customer support lines so I know there are other idiots out there like me. Some of them even blog. Every blog brings you traffic, even if the only reader that blog has is mom and dad. Call it a f***ing permalink and call it a day, will you please?

15. I’m surprised no one has used their photo trucks to put little pictures next to driving directions. Instead on both maps I get “turn right onto SR-92.” Why don’t you put a little picture of what the sign looks like? I’d love it if you said “you’ll see a sign that looks like this right before you need to turn right.”

16. Amazing that NEITHER Google or Microsoft have a link that says “using GPS.” I’d love to have a page that explains all about how GPS works, which models are the coolest to use with these mapping systems, and what I need to get and how I need to hook it up. This could even be a profit center. If Microsoft linked over to Amazon’s store they’d get a kickback for each GPS sold.

17. Google Maps remember my default location. Microsoft Maps don’t seem to remember anything.

18. Google has more viewing area horizontally. For some reason my eye likes that.

Well, that’s enough. I’m not sure why I like Google Maps more, but they keep being my default and nothing I saw on this little jaunt tonight made me question that decision. I have never needed 3D imagery to get around, preferring the simple approach (although those features are impressive).

What do you think? What would you work on if you were on the Microsoft Mapping team? I haven’t even attempted to look up anything international, either. But Google was very accurate in Paris and London and told me instantly where I was thanks to its My Location feature. That really is the killer feature for me and it’s one that now gets me to use my Nokia N95 to look at maps instead of my iPhone (the iPhone is better for viewing and navigating around maps, though, but that one feature has proven much more important to me than anything else in the mapping experience).

Anyway, good luck!

Oh, and has anyone built a map mashup yet for Facebook? I’d love to see where all my friends are located around the world.

Comments

  1. The link thing drives me up the wall. How hard is it for them to realise that I want a URL for ‘What I’m looking at, right now.’

    That includes centre of map, scale, map type etc.

    I nearly always look up somewhere, pan/zoom around, to find it etc – then I quite often want to send it to someone. None of the MS options actually do this – there seem to be about 3 different ways to look at something that’s a *bit* like what I’m looking at, but not what I’m actually looking at. Luckily they make that as hard as possible. Genius.

    I’m pleased to note that Google Maps seems to get this right all the time now (it used to be similarly irritating).

  2. The link thing drives me up the wall. How hard is it for them to realise that I want a URL for ‘What I’m looking at, right now.’

    That includes centre of map, scale, map type etc.

    I nearly always look up somewhere, pan/zoom around, to find it etc – then I quite often want to send it to someone. None of the MS options actually do this – there seem to be about 3 different ways to look at something that’s a *bit* like what I’m looking at, but not what I’m actually looking at. Luckily they make that as hard as possible. Genius.

    I’m pleased to note that Google Maps seems to get this right all the time now (it used to be similarly irritating).

  3. Let the Xbox guys have a crack at it. Just sayin’. If there’s anything remotely close to the awesome of the rest of the normal world (read: Apple and Google), the XBOX crew can do it.

    Once that is done, what could you do with a living room console, with web integration, captive, paying customers, multibillion entertainment genre, and next-gen social spaces, oh nm, I’ve said too much…

    You have the potential for great products, but you won’t or can’t do it, Microsoft.

  4. Let the Xbox guys have a crack at it. Just sayin’. If there’s anything remotely close to the awesome of the rest of the normal world (read: Apple and Google), the XBOX crew can do it.

    Once that is done, what could you do with a living room console, with web integration, captive, paying customers, multibillion entertainment genre, and next-gen social spaces, oh nm, I’ve said too much…

    You have the potential for great products, but you won’t or can’t do it, Microsoft.

  5. Wow Robert I agree wholeheartly with you. I have tried to use maps.live but I get frustrated with it. It tries to be too clever. Google just does the job, quickly and without and fuss. Google Maps does have cool features but they seem to be less intrusive. I have a number of ‘computer challenged’ friends who manage to find their way around Google Maps.

  6. Wow Robert I agree wholeheartly with you. I have tried to use maps.live but I get frustrated with it. It tries to be too clever. Google just does the job, quickly and without and fuss. Google Maps does have cool features but they seem to be less intrusive. I have a number of ‘computer challenged’ friends who manage to find their way around Google Maps.

  7. I like Microsoft Maps better than Google overall (one-click directions are really nice), but they need to add Mac / Safari support.

  8. I like Microsoft Maps better than Google overall (one-click directions are really nice), but they need to add Mac / Safari support.

  9. functionality that actually shows something of value outside of the US might be nice. As a former Microsoft guy, I appalled at the lack of support for latin america.

  10. functionality that actually shows something of value outside of the US might be nice. As a former Microsoft guy, I appalled at the lack of support for latin america.

  11. how about this: SHOW ME A MAP!
    i got to maps.google.com or local.google.com, and I see a big map of the US, and a simple search box at the top. Almost daily I go to the default Google Maps page, not to search anything in particular, but to just look at the map, for one reason or another. If, for example, I can’t remember how New Hampshire and Vermont are situated next to each other, I don’t actually want to have to search for anything – i just want to look at the map.

    but I go to local.live.com, and i get nothing. no map, just 2 search boxes.
    1) why 2? is that really necessary? Does that mean i have to fill BOTH of them out? what if I’m not looking for “something”, just “somewhere”? Why do I have to fill out the “What” box? But no – if you leave one box empty, you get a damn error message! COME ON – JUST SHOW ME SOMETHING

    2) Just let me look at a damned map! why do I have to jump through hoops to look at a map? If I want to see how the states in New England are arranged, I am forced to do a “fake search” just to get to the map. I can’t even just type “Vermont” in the “where” box, because it gives me an error. Apparently i HAVE to search of something IN Vermont. Guess what – i don’t know what’s in Vermont! I just want to see it on a damn map!

  12. how about this: SHOW ME A MAP!
    i got to maps.google.com or local.google.com, and I see a big map of the US, and a simple search box at the top. Almost daily I go to the default Google Maps page, not to search anything in particular, but to just look at the map, for one reason or another. If, for example, I can’t remember how New Hampshire and Vermont are situated next to each other, I don’t actually want to have to search for anything – i just want to look at the map.

    but I go to local.live.com, and i get nothing. no map, just 2 search boxes.
    1) why 2? is that really necessary? Does that mean i have to fill BOTH of them out? what if I’m not looking for “something”, just “somewhere”? Why do I have to fill out the “What” box? But no – if you leave one box empty, you get a damn error message! COME ON – JUST SHOW ME SOMETHING

    2) Just let me look at a damned map! why do I have to jump through hoops to look at a map? If I want to see how the states in New England are arranged, I am forced to do a “fake search” just to get to the map. I can’t even just type “Vermont” in the “where” box, because it gives me an error. Apparently i HAVE to search of something IN Vermont. Guess what – i don’t know what’s in Vermont! I just want to see it on a damn map!

  13. The question I have is whether MS sticks with AJAX-based maps, moves to Silverlight, or does a tiered version using both. Not making a judgement on any path, but I’ve been on several MS sites the last couple of weeks that have inexplicibly hit me up with a prompt to download Silverlight (I did after the 3rd or 4th but still get it at work)

  14. The question I have is whether MS sticks with AJAX-based maps, moves to Silverlight, or does a tiered version using both. Not making a judgement on any path, but I’ve been on several MS sites the last couple of weeks that have inexplicibly hit me up with a prompt to download Silverlight (I did after the 3rd or 4th but still get it at work)

  15. Douglas, quick one for you – who came first? Google Maps (not keyhole) or Microsoft Maps (virtual earth)?

    There was a major revamp to the maps.live.com site in the last few months to try to make thing simpler – like getting rid of the two seperate search boxes.

    I am surprised to hear that no-one can find the menu item “share” with sub items of email, clipboard or blog. These option create that URL to exactly what you are seeing.

    One thing i agree on is that google gets it when it comes to finding what you are after. If I type in Smith Street, use the current Map view to determine that I’m in Australia or use my IP address, don’t take me to the US.

    One of the best features of maps.live.com is the ability to zoom in based on a box, draw it using the middle mouse button (scroll wheel) or holding ctrl. This technique lets me zoom into the exact location on the earth in seconds, google frustrates me.

    I’d love to see a serious version built in silverlight 2.0. After the iPhone version of google maps built by Apple kicked arse it seems pretty clear that the extra processing power and UI improvements are a must.

    John.

  16. Douglas, quick one for you – who came first? Google Maps (not keyhole) or Microsoft Maps (virtual earth)?

    There was a major revamp to the maps.live.com site in the last few months to try to make thing simpler – like getting rid of the two seperate search boxes.

    I am surprised to hear that no-one can find the menu item “share” with sub items of email, clipboard or blog. These option create that URL to exactly what you are seeing.

    One thing i agree on is that google gets it when it comes to finding what you are after. If I type in Smith Street, use the current Map view to determine that I’m in Australia or use my IP address, don’t take me to the US.

    One of the best features of maps.live.com is the ability to zoom in based on a box, draw it using the middle mouse button (scroll wheel) or holding ctrl. This technique lets me zoom into the exact location on the earth in seconds, google frustrates me.

    I’d love to see a serious version built in silverlight 2.0. After the iPhone version of google maps built by Apple kicked arse it seems pretty clear that the extra processing power and UI improvements are a must.

    John.

  17. Who came first? How about ESRI and ArcIMS? I’m not sure what that has to do with this one. I’m just trying to get to the point that Microsoft has picked a war with a goliath – and I’m not sure why.

    Why don’t they just try to get bullets working in Microsoft Word instead? That’s what’s been bugging me for 20 years!

  18. Who came first? How about ESRI and ArcIMS? I’m not sure what that has to do with this one. I’m just trying to get to the point that Microsoft has picked a war with a goliath – and I’m not sure why.

    Why don’t they just try to get bullets working in Microsoft Word instead? That’s what’s been bugging me for 20 years!

  19. “I am surprised to hear that no-one can find the menu item “share” with sub items of email, clipboard or blog. These option create that URL to exactly what you are seeing.”

    Nope.

    I found it, but when I used it and pasted it into a new browser window, it gave me something a *bit* like what I was using. The map wasn’t centred on what I was looking at (it was centred on the last pushpin I used), and it may even have been the wrong scale.

  20. “I am surprised to hear that no-one can find the menu item “share” with sub items of email, clipboard or blog. These option create that URL to exactly what you are seeing.”

    Nope.

    I found it, but when I used it and pasted it into a new browser window, it gave me something a *bit* like what I was using. The map wasn’t centred on what I was looking at (it was centred on the last pushpin I used), and it may even have been the wrong scale.

  21. “Oh, and has anyone built a map mashup yet for Facebook?”

    Or a way to publish MyLocation in real time so that friends/colleagues can track my progress on journeys?

    Even Google don’t make it easy to just stick a pin in a location, save the view and send the url via email/im.
    It really ought to be a single right-click function?

  22. “Oh, and has anyone built a map mashup yet for Facebook?”

    Or a way to publish MyLocation in real time so that friends/colleagues can track my progress on journeys?

    Even Google don’t make it easy to just stick a pin in a location, save the view and send the url via email/im.
    It really ought to be a single right-click function?

  23. Regarding point #15: you have never printed driving directions from Google Earth, I gather? (Google Earth, not Google Maps)

    Then you get little photo images of each turn you need to make, so you see the actual area, including lanes, signs, lights and buildings in that location.

    Blew me away the first time I saw it, especially since it doesn’t seems to be documented in online help or something as far as I know.

  24. Regarding point #15: you have never printed driving directions from Google Earth, I gather? (Google Earth, not Google Maps)

    Then you get little photo images of each turn you need to make, so you see the actual area, including lanes, signs, lights and buildings in that location.

    Blew me away the first time I saw it, especially since it doesn’t seems to be documented in online help or something as far as I know.

  25. How about displaying good detailed maps of other places than the US? I hate this US-centric view of the world. I live in europe and google maps just works here. maps.live.com is no match at all. 3D view of US cities are clearly more important for MS than better 2D maps of non-US places. Well, google seems just to be a more global company than maps.live.com.

  26. How about displaying good detailed maps of other places than the US? I hate this US-centric view of the world. I live in europe and google maps just works here. maps.live.com is no match at all. 3D view of US cities are clearly more important for MS than better 2D maps of non-US places. Well, google seems just to be a more global company than maps.live.com.

  27. I like Google Maps better, too, although I’m kinda pissed at how ugly the street maps in Philippines are. For example, to say that the roads in the maps don’t align with the satellite imagery would be an understatement. But then Microsoft’s maps are just the same (it’s kinda disturbing to think that Google copied Microsoft’s maps for the Philippines…).

  28. I like Google Maps better, too, although I’m kinda pissed at how ugly the street maps in Philippines are. For example, to say that the roads in the maps don’t align with the satellite imagery would be an understatement. But then Microsoft’s maps are just the same (it’s kinda disturbing to think that Google copied Microsoft’s maps for the Philippines…).

  29. I just tried both Google and Live with Opera. I forgot that was the browser I was in. Guess what? Live doesn’t work with Opera, or not at least from my machine. Pretty much guarantees I’ll use Google, even though both get my home location wrong.

  30. I just tried both Google and Live with Opera. I forgot that was the browser I was in. Guess what? Live doesn’t work with Opera, or not at least from my machine. Pretty much guarantees I’ll use Google, even though both get my home location wrong.

  31. I just tried out microsoft maps. It doesn’t even know my hometown. Google takes me there straight away, and oddly, places it’s marker almost directly on top of my house!

  32. I just tried out microsoft maps. It doesn’t even know my hometown. Google takes me there straight away, and oddly, places it’s marker almost directly on top of my house!