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 (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.

Congrats to Windows Live Local team

It used to be a big deal when you got a great review in one of the computer magazines. It used to be that was the only way you could get people to try your products, but now that we have blogs and a much more efficient word-of-mouth network getting one review is a lot less interesting. That said, it still is very cool when PC Magazine says your stuff is best-of-breed like it did today with the Windows Local Live team.

Mapping is one area where the big three companies are really fighting it out. This year is going to be interesting to watch in this space. I wonder who will do the best at letting bloggers put their reviews right on top of the maps? That’s the next area that’ll get people to switch map services.

The Live Local team has a blog too. Can’t wait to see what they do.

Aside: we need a better name for this service than Windows Live Local. That sure doesn’t make my heart go “pitter patter.” I hate our naming for these things. Think one word. Think easily sayable. Think memeorable. Think unique.

On the other hand, since our team (Seattle Seahawks) are in the Superbowl the Local Live team created a Superbowl map mashup. Try the bird’s eye photography. Really makes using map mashups a lot nicer than the other services that just have a satellite view.

New Local.Live Maps and Directions Rock

Have you checked out the new photography and new maps we’ve used on Windows Live Local?  But, even better are the turn-by-turn directions. Huh? Here, check out how to get from the Google Offices in Kirkland to Microsoft’s Headquarters in Redmond. Click on each direction (the ones that say “Turn RIGHT…”). It’ll take you to that turn on the photo so you can get a sense of which way the directions take you and what it looks like. I’ve used that several times already and it’s cool and helps you to see that the system actually picked the best route for you.