Ideas are everything and everybody has an idea to change the world we experience. What would you do when you have a crazy idea that you are sure will be killed in a room of design critiques? You share it with all the critiques on the internet!. If it has to fail, fail it hard, and learn from it.
For this article, I will be studying and applying the 5-day design sprint framework developed by Google ventures and apply it to create a new experience for the Google Maps Go app. Here, I like to explore how I can stay at a beginner’s mindset and explore a new way to navigate.
This is going to be a solo design sprint, the target audience for this project will be me and the user research will be limited to my prior experience of using the app. Also, I will study the existing solution, share my hypothesis on the need for a new experience, design the screens for the proposed solution, and if time allows getting feedback from potential users.
I frequently take Uber or Ola rides for my daily office commute. Over the years, I have observed the following two key behaviors performed by the drivers on their navigation app. They are:
Behavior 1: Before the trip starts, the driver scans the route by scrolling along the suggested route on Google Maps.
Behavior 2: While on the trip, the driver swipes right-left on the directional cues from the top green box on the app
As a product designer, the second interaction caught my attention as I was not aware of the possibility of this interaction. I understand that the green box was showing me the next turn to take. Often when you are driving through the busy city streets and want to make a quick direction change, the green box correctly mentions how far you need to go for the correct turn. However, I look at the route on the digital map, ignores the directional cues from the green box on the top and ends up taking the wrong turn.
This made me think. I thought,
- What if I combine the current direction and the upcoming turns into one visual entity?
- What if I use a geometrical shape for the route – meaning, shapes of navigational signs or road signs, instead of the satellite shape of the road?
- What if I avoid all unwanted streets and other details from the map? This might sound scary, but I am ready to witness the obvious.
Even though these thought dumps may sound crazy and these ideas won’t be a one-size-fit-all solution for digital maps. However, I believe that any navigational product that is used for driving must prioritize the essential information that helps a user to perform his task so that a driver can focus on driving.
Also, in this article, I will be explaining the details of the sprint process and different activities happening on each day. This design sprint comprised of five phases and each phase typically lasts one day:
Day 1: Understand
Day 2: Diverge
Day3: Converge / Decide
Day 5: Test
Day 1: Understand
The design sprint repository from thoughbot explains goals of day 1 as:
Day one of the design sprint is about gathering all existing information/knowledge on the business, the customer and the problem and exposing our assumptions and knowledge gaps.
Understanding is all about
- Getting different perspectives on the problem at hand
- Encourage everyone to share what they already know and
- Develop a common understanding with the rest of the group.
Since this is a sprint of just one team - that’s me, I ask anyone who is reading this, to be patient with this process and take a beginner’s mindset, participate with your thoughts and share your thoughts with me.
Why do I need this?
“Go!” feature is a navigational feature of Google maps that helps drivers navigate unknown routes with ease. After noticing this new interaction that I explained earlier, whenever I take my car out for a drive around the city, I deliberately started focusing only on the green box for the directional cues instead of focusing on the map. It was a bit tricky to get my eyes on the box but over time it gave me clarity on the next turn to take and focus on the road.
For any navigation apps out there in the market, the navigational routes are always marked on a digital map. That means the map will show all nearby and important streets, main roads, highways, landmarks, etc.
This is required because as Jakob Nielsen’s second usability heuristic states-
The system should speak the users' language, with words, phrases, and concepts familiar to the user, rather than system-oriented terms. Follow real-world conventions, making information appear in a natural and logical order.
By nature, human beings find comfort in familiarity. It is for this reason that Jakob Nielsen’s second usability heuristic, the match between the system and the real world, is so important. However, I will be experimenting with a different directional view than showing the route on a digital map.
How is this currently solved?
The current Google maps navigation feature addresses the following key needs for its users on the map interface.
- A visual estimate of the route on the map.
- Traffic condition
- Best possible routes + alternative
- Upcoming turns + road/street details
- Estimated time of arrival + distance/time remaining
The new navigational experience – the one that I am proposing, will not replace any of the above key information provided by Google maps.
Following are my mind dump of possible advantages of this new experience and how this might be an interesting way of looking at the navigation maps:
- For more experienced users, driving is considered as a subconscious activity. However, for the safety of the passenger, the driver has to be present and focus on the road and not get distracted by an interface.
- The interface has to be minimal – in terms of colors, UI components, facts, and visuals, to shorten the information retrieval time.
- The current Google maps navigation interface provides a colorful map interface that highlights the nearby streets, landmarks, traffic conditions, etc. along with the route navigation.
- This might cause distractions while driving. (I want to see if there is user research or study to find out, looking at a color-rich map interface filled with geographical details, is causing longer information collection time and distraction while driving.)
- The direction focused navigation will eliminate the unwanted details from the interface (provided by the current Google maps navigation) around the route.
- While driving, the new ‘direction focused’ the navigation will support drivers by providing critical information such as directional cues, upcoming traffic, alternative route, roadblocks, destination proximity, etc. with minimal distraction.
- If required, the driver can easily toggle between navigation interface to the default map interface, to preview or find an overview of the route (similar to currently available interaction).
How will you measure the success of this design?
There are two commonly used success metrics:
- Kerry Rodden’s HEART framework – measures the quality of user experience
- Goal-Signal-Metrics Process - the goals of your product or project
For most of my design sprints and side-project, I will stick with the HEART framework. It stands for Happiness, Engagement, Adoption, Retention and Task Success. For the larger part, getting this idea out of my head is what success to me. Other than that, I choose to go with Happiness.
Happiness is the measure of user attitudes, often collected via survey. For example, satisfaction, perceived ease of use, and net-promoter score.
For more on this, read this excellent article by Kerry Rodden on – ‘How to choose the right UX metrics for your product’
Sketch the most important user story
I do the following before the trip to get an understanding of the route:
- Enter the origin and destination on the Google Maps interface
- Google maps give the best possible route direction with the estimated travel time.
- I start the navigation on the app.
- I follow the cues from the app for the current position, direction, turns, traffic condition, and other updates.
- I reach the destination and exit the navigation.
Key take away from Day 1 sprint
Sometimes, I felt it so overwhelming to follow these steps and it’s time-consuming, but it’s critical to learn the process. This is like learning any new skills like learning guitar or playing a game. At the end of the sprint, what I learn from this process and building the prototype is all it matters.
Even though this feature is a thought experiment – meaning, this new experience will not be a substitute for the current ability of Google Maps to provide so much visual information on one screen. But I am curious to see how my visualization is taking shape into a prototype.
Now it’s time to focus on day two of the sprint.