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Google Maps for Desktop/Mobile

Usability Test Report (Remote)

Prepared by: AJ Polanco, for 16:137:535 Usability Evaluation
Compiled on: November 17, 2014

Team members of Team Android (2014) include:


AJ Polanco, UX Design + Digital Marketing Lead at 4food

Chika Obiora, former Sensory Lab Technician/Panel Leader at Chromocell Corporation

Sam Ramezanli, former Junior Android and Java Developer at MKS Systems



The purpose of this report is to practice writing a usability test report based on a remote
test. This report details what Team Android discovered while testing Google Maps on desktop
and mobile. The specific goal of this project is to provide: II. An executive summary of our
findings; III. A quick description of Google Maps interface; IV. A set of findings for each of
the problems found along with severity rankings; V. A set of findings for each features that had a
positive impact on Google Maps along with usefulness ratings; and VI. A list of
recommendations on what should be improved and what should stay; VII. A conclusion giving
an opinion on how viable Google Maps is in terms of user friendliness.



Users of Google Maps have been found to struggle with functions outside of the typical
use case of entering a predefined start and end location into the interface. Despite these struggles,
users do not fault Google Maps and commend Google for its perceived high ease of use.
This usability test took place on Saturday, November 2, 2014. The purpose of this test
was to task users with performing functions like locating nearby restaurants, charting out bicycle
routes based on geographic terrain, and planning a Day Trip into Manhattan, NY. This test was
performed with a single remote participant at. The user is a male Mechanical Engineering
student and an avid Android smartphone user.



Desktop: The desktop version of Google Maps strives for an extremely minimalist user
interface. Nearly all of the visible screen real-estate is devoted to the map that is being navigated.
The primary UI item is a single search bar on the top of the screen. It is coupled with a large,
blue search button and a small menu for Traffic, Bicycling, Terrain information and/or getting
directions. Additionally, there is a prominent Sign in call-to-action in the top-right corner.
Upon entering a search query, new panes appear to provide information about what location has
been searched.
Mobile: The mobile app was not tested in the remote study. Even so, our test
participant was familiar with its features and User Interface. As such, it will be briefly
described. The mobile application is similar to its desktop counterpart in that it also strives for a
very minimal interface, and its main UI is a search bar at the top. The key difference between
mobile and desktop is the existence of a Navigation mode that is instantiated after a user has
inputted a travel origin and destination. In this mode, the application functions similar to other
GPS applications, with a cockpit graphic that follows a path in real-time until the desired
location has been reached.

Remote Usability Test Report for Google Maps (Desktop & Mobile) | Team Android



When using recording user problems with Google Maps interface, we used a severity
scale of 0 to 4: A score of 0 means that we dont agree that the test finding is a usability problem;
a score of 1 means that the heuristic is only affected by cosmetic issues; a score of 2 is a minor
usability problem; a score of 3 is a major usability problem that is important to fix; a score of 4 is
a catastrophic usability problem that is imperative to fix. (Note: for a complete description of the
tasks performed by the test participant, refer to the Appendix section at the end of the document.)
Unable to specify different modes of transportation in one trip | Severity: 3/4
During our last task, we asked our test participant to navigate his way from his house to
Times Square in New York City. The task was designed as a two part process: 1) the participant
would search for a PATH station in Jersey City, NJ and generate Driving directions to there from
his house; 2) the participant would search for Times Square, and generate Transit directions to
there from the PATH station. Unexpectedly, our participant clicked the Add destination (+)
button and entered both destinations in one search. This resulted into two different, but similar
usability issues.
First, Transit & Flights modes are the only transportation modes that do not allow for
adding multiple destinations. Furthermore, Transit results include Walking; i.e. different modes
of transport). According to the Nielsen-Norman groups 10 Usability Heuristics for User
Interface Design, these points would be classified as usability problems due lacking consistency
and standards. (Henceforth, these 10 Usability Heuristics will be referred to as heuristics.)
Second, switching between Driving and Transit modes caused the intermediary
destination to be lost. The severity of this usability problem is -at a minimum- directly
proportional to the number of destinations inputted. Because this particular problem was
unforeseen and not quantified, our group is unable to determine if user dissatisfaction would be
linearly, geometrically, or exponentially correlated with the number of destinations inputted.
Additionally, the lack of preventive error messaging makes this problem as a major usability
issue. Heuristics in question: Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors,
flexibility and efficiency of use, and Error prevention.

Fig 4.1 Search in Driving mode (left); search in Transit mode with a lost destination (right)

Remote Usability Test Report for Google Maps (Desktop & Mobile) | Team Android

Felt the need to integrate 3rd party overlays to complete goals | Severity: 2/4
For one of our tasks, we asked our user to create a bicycle route in Washington D.C. He
proceeded to search on Google for google maps bicycle routes washington dc. The first
organic search result directed him to a Google Map with what appears to be a 3rd party overlay of
user-defined bicycle routes.

Fig 4.2 Unknown 3rd party Google Maps overlay. Washington DC Bike Trails and Routes

From a business standpoint, our group cannot make a clear determination as to whether
this is a problem. If the goal of Google Maps is to ultimately drive more searches in Google
Search, then this may not be an issue. In the context of Google Maps, however, this particular
use case indicates that the search capabilities of the desktop application are lacking in
comparison to Google Search. From a usability standpoint, this is a problem.

Unable to locate previously used functions | Severity: 2/4

While looking for bicycle routes, we ask the participant to modify his bicycle route trail
based on the topography of the nearby area. He mentioned that he recalls seeing the option to
[search for Terrain], but doesnt remember where. Ultimately, he finds the option by
reloading Google Maps and seeing it under Getting around. (To our groups understanding,
this is the only place where the Terrain button is visible.)
Before finding the option, our participant thinks-out-loud, I figure I would just use
Google, instead of trying to find [the Terrain function] on Maps.

Remote Usability Test Report for Google Maps (Desktop & Mobile) | Team Android

Difficulty managing multiple searches while looking for directions | Severity: 3/4
During one of our first tasks, we ask the test participant to do the following: 1) locate the
Middlesex Doctors Office and generate Driving directions; 2) locate a nearby Indian
restaurant that is within walking distance of the doctors office.
The problem here is that the ability to search using keywords is only available when
Getting around is present on Google Maps. If the user is in Directions Mode (unofficial name)
the current search must be cleared. As a result, the user is required to memorize all but one
location to use Google Maps effectively.
For example: If a trip consists of a single origin and a single destination (two inputs),
then only one location must be memorized. If there is one origin & five destinations (six inputs),
that necessitates five memorized locations; i.e. N memorized locations for N+1 search inputs.

Fig 4.3 Ability to keyword search at Getting around (left); inability in Directions Mode (right).



When recording positive features within Google Maps interface, we monitored user
interaction and rated features with a usefulness scale of 0 to 4: A score of 0 means that we dont
agree that the feature has a positive effect; score of 1 means that the feature is only cosmetically
useful; an element with a score of 2 provides a minor usability increase; a score of 3 provides a
major usability increase that is important to make note of; a score of 4 is an element that provides
a profound boon to usability.
Ability to intuit desktop functionality from mobile app experience | Usefulness: 3/4
Prior to searching for Middlesex Doctors Office, we asked our test participant to find his
current location. He told us that he had never done that on desktop before, and yet he was able to
complete this task very quickly, without any assistance.

Remote Usability Test Report for Google Maps (Desktop & Mobile) | Team Android

Flexibility in system allowed user to complete tasks in varied ways | Usefulness: 2/4.
To our teams understanding, Terrain only displayed the topography information of the
current location. Furthermore, when we entered Terrain into the search field of the Getting
around screen, we were immediately directed towards the Terrain search results.
That said, our test participant used Terrain as a search modifier that prefaced his location
keywords. I.E. terrain washington dc. This caused initiated a Terrain filter that caused the
predictive search results to only display topography related items. Our group would not have
been able to discover this functionality without conducting this usability test. Furthermore, this
finding is indicative of the usefulness of Google Maps flexible nature.



Based on the usability test, the following features should stay as they are [or continue to
be implemented in a similar way] in Google Maps: consistency between desktop and mobile app,
and flexible user interface. The following features should be improved: (i) adding destinations,
(ii) specifying different modes of transportation, and (iii) searching for locations via keywords.
One recommendation for improving (i) adding destinations, is to add this functionality to
Transit and Flights modes of Directions Mode. Alternatively, Google Maps can display a
notification in the top of the screen that allows users to undo their actions if they switch to either
of these search modes. The undo functionality exists in Gmail, and the notification element is
currently used in Google Maps to display Loading text when the screen is being updated.
For (ii) specifying different modes of transportation, Google Maps could allow users to
adjust their complete trips with greater nuance. E.G., the user should be able to specify a Driving
destination and a subsequent Transit destination. For (iii) searching for locations via keywords,
our team suggests carrying this Getting around functionality over to Directions Mode.
Features (i) + (iii) will provide great increase in usability for a moderate time investment.
Feature (ii) will likely require a considerable amount of time and money to implement.



Google Maps desktop and mobile applications interfaces can be generally considered
simple and extremely minimalist, with complex underlying technology. Overall, the interface is
extremely versatile, viable for nearly all computer-literate demographics, and is fairly user
friendly for the most part.

Remote Usability Test Report for Google Maps (Desktop & Mobile) | Team Android



The problems that our usability test participant encountered were: Unable to specify
different modes of transportation in one trip, Felt the need to integrate 3rd party overlays to
complete goals, Unable to locate previously used functions, and Difficulty managing multiple
searches while looking for directions.
Despite the aforementioned problems, our test participant only had positive things to say
about Google and Google Maps. When filling out our modified-SUS, or System Usability Scale,
he agreed that the website was easy to use, the functions were well integrated, and slightly
agreed that he felt very confident using Google Maps. Interestingly enough, our remote usability
test participant differed from our face-to-face usability tester in that he Strongly Disagreed that
he needed to learn a lot of things before he could get going with Google Maps; the face-to-face
tester was Neutral on this SUS point. (For those unaware, defines a SUS as a
quick and dirty, reliable tool for measuring usability.)
Though it can be argued that Googles users are satisfied Google Maps, Team Android
still believes that the usability problems should be addressed in order to maintain this positive
user-developer relationship.


Nielsen, Jakob. "10 Heuristics for User Interface Design." Nielsen Norman Group. N.p., 1 Jan.
1995. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <>.
"System Usability Scale (SUS).", 03 June 2014. Web. 17 Nov. 2014.

Remote Usability Test Report for Google Maps (Desktop & Mobile) | Team Android


Scenario 1 Doctors Appointment

Part I
One of your friends told you that Google Maps updated again. How would you go to
launch Google Maps?
Part II
You have a doctors appointment tomorrow. To start navigating to the doctors you
need to tell Google Maps where you are. Can you locate yourself on the map?
Part III
You forgot the address of your doctors office. Youll need to search for its location and
use that location to have Google Maps determine a path for you to take. You then
decide to save the location for reference later.

I nform ation: You are going to the Middlesex Doctors Office

Part III.A
But right before turning off your monitor, you notice an Indian food restaurant on the
map near the doctors office. Save that too!
Part IV
You left the doctors office, and you are hungry. Right now you are really craving that
Indian food. Use Google Maps navigation mode to start walking to that restaurant from

Scenario 2 D.C. Weekend Trip

Part I
Youve decided to take a trip from New Jersey to Washington D.C. to visit your friend
Joe and you are trying to plan your trip using Google Maps. You want to avoid the toll
roads as much as possible to save some money.
Part II
Youll be using your mobile device to navigate once you start your journey. You know
youll want to listen to music on your phone without the directions interjecting. You
happen to know your way for the first leg of the trip so you dont actually want the
Google Maps GPS directions to start until you get into Delaware. Youll adjust the map
on your desktop.

Remote Usability Test Report for Google Maps (Desktop & Mobile) | Team Android

Scenario 2 (contd)
Part II.A
You should also share the map with your friend Joe so he knows where youll be
travelling through.
Part III
Right before you leave you load up the map on your phone using your home Wi-Fi. You
have limited mobile data so you dont want to waste any on loading the map during
your trip. You decide to save it for mobile offline use.
Part IV
Lets say youre an avid cycler. When you get there, youll be staying with your friend
Joe at 2240 M St NW, Washington, DC. Hes at work when you get to his house but he
mentioned that there are some nice roads for cycling nearby. Youve got your bicycle
with you. See if you can plan a five to ten mile route near his house to keep you busy
until he gets back.

You might want to check out the scenery and elevation along your route first.

And, since youre from out of town, it wouldnt hurt to explore some interesting
landmarks while youre there.

Scenario 3: Trip to Times Square, NY

Part I:
You are meeting your friends in Manhattan, Times Square to have dinner with them at
the rooftop bar at 9:30pm. Your friend advised you to park your car in Jersey City and
take the PATH train to NYC in order to save money on not paying the toll and parking
for the car. Locate the path station on the map.
Part II:
You found the PATH station in Jersey City and you want to figure out your further steps
to get to Times Square via public transportation.
Part III:
You are in the PATH train, underground where you have no access to cell-phone data.
You forgot which stop youre getting out and what subway to catch next. You want to
check these- assuming that you havent closed the previous search on Google Maps.

Remote Usability Test Report for Google Maps (Desktop & Mobile) | Team Android

Standard Usability Scale (SUS) Results

Answer options: Strongly Disagree, Slightly Disagree, Neutral, Slightly Agree, Strongly Agree

___ = Face-to-Face Participant Answers

___ = Remote Participant Answers
1. I think that I would like to use this website frequently

Strongly Agree, Strongly Agree

2. I found this website unnecessarily complex

Slightly Disagree, Strongly Disagree

3. I thought this website was easy to use

Slightly Agree, Agree

4. I think that I would need assistance to be able to use this website

Strongly Disagree, Strongly Disagree

5. I found the various functions in this website were well integrated

Slightly Agree, Agree

6. I thought there was too much inconsistency in this website.

Slightly Disagree, Slightly Disagree

7. I would imagine that most people would learn to use this website very quickly.

Strongly Agree, Neutral

8. I found this website very cumbersome/awkward to use.

Slightly Disagree, Slightly Disagree

9. I felt very confident using this website.

Strongly Agree, Slightly Agree

10. I needed to learn a lot of things before I could get going with this website.

Neutral, Strongly Disagree

Remote Usability Test Report for Google Maps (Desktop & Mobile) | Team Android