Google Maps wants you to want it. Google wants its users to engage with their products using the information Google has collected, and this recent foray into personalizing the user experience is clearly highlighted in the re-designed Google Maps unveiled at Google's I/O Developer Conference this week.
This is a step towards helping you feel less spied upon by presenting you the information Google has on you through recommendations.
The new Google Maps is a visual and functional overhaul, but the personalized mapping is the most notable new feature. This is an extension of their recent foray into personalizing the user experience by collecting data on the user and tailoring results accordingly.
Google Maps will save your most frequently searched addresses to make finding directions as friction-less as possible. The more frequently you use it, the more Google will provide customized overlays with your preferences including information aggregated from your friends' recommendations, Zagat ratings, "starred" ratings or any places you have previously saved, and nearby complimentary landmarks.
They have also incorporated biking routes, public transit timings and information, flight information, and the Google Earth interface for the 3-D mapping experience.
Re-displaying results on the map makes the user interact with the whole map itself as the information changes. This is reflective of the industry-wide trend for the holy grail of user engagement.
TechCrunch interviewed Google Map's lead designer for Google's focus on engagement through interacting with the map: "The map has gone from being this anonymous blank slate to one that I’ve started coloring in myself, because it has become my map. When you go and rate places, it makes them friendlier, they become more prominent with the new design. Places now show up as personal landmarks. Some icons have a yellow glow, and these are places being recommended, for example."
Google Maps has so far built its success on its ease of use and simplicity of function and interface but the sophistication of the new Google Maps is intended to change that. The slick transitions while zooming in and out of the visually enhanced map and the various levels of data available on any given location are created to keep the user focused on the map itself.
Is it trying too hard to engage its users though? TechCrunch's Drew Olanoff notes that even with "shadow effects, new design elements, and social cues to check things out," would anyone still use Google Maps for anything else other than directions? Maybe the failure of Google+ is prompting Google to invest even more heavily in its successful products like Google Maps.
One of the more superfluous examples of the new "personal landmarks" also includes photo tours of prominent places. Regardless, this is undoubtedly an advanced visual and functional version of an already robust product. And if nothing else, it's really pretty to look at.