Trip sharing with Google Maps

Overview

You’ve probably been late at some point for reasons beyond your control, and there’s a good chance you’ve also had to wait for others who were running late. 

Google maps can’t remove the UFO that’s blocking the road and making you late for work, and it can’t drag your chronically late friend out the door to meet you on time for dinner. But it can simplify meeting up with others by making it easier for multiple people to share their status with each other in real time. 

The project

I completed this project for a Digital Product Design class as a student at Pratt Institute. The assignment was to design an app or product feature of our choosing.

Project duration

6 weeks

My role

UX research, UX design, UI design, interaction design

Tools

Sketch, Invision Studio, Invision, Principle App

Discovery

Difficulty meeting up with others is a universal frustration 

After receiving the assignment, I spent a few days searching for somewhere to start. That weekend some of my friends wanted to get lunch together. As usual, meeting up was a disaster…

I realized our failure to orchestrate a smooth meetup wasn't a symptom of our unique incompetence. It was the the result of external factors, which lead to frustration for many different people. This provided a jumping off point for my project. 

Research process 

I conducted research in 2 phases:

1. Quantitative research 

First I created a survey in Google Forms and distributed it to potential users.

 

2. Qualitative research 

Then I interviewed 7 out of the 17 survey respondents. 

Reframing the problem

Users need help making sure everyone gets to the right place on time

Which controllable factors present problems when users meetup?

I started my research with the assumption that users need a way to make sure everyone gets to the right place on time. However, I quickly began to realize that my framing of the problem was flawed. It ignored the obvious - people are often late for unavoidable reasons. 

 

Rather than contending with the unpredictability of the universe, I shifted my thinking towards identifying controllable factors that present problems when users meet up with each other. 

Insight

Users multitask communication and navigation

The survey data indicated that most users rely on both a navigation app and text messaging to help them meet up with others.

Google Maps was by far the most popular navigation app and received a high satisfaction rating from users. Although the app has native location  and ETA sharing features, most survey respondents said they typically share their ETA via text.

According to interviewees, texting is the easiest and most obvious way to communicate their status to people they're meeting up with. Most were unaware of Google Maps' location and ETA sharing features, or said they were too difficult to find and use. 

“Texting is the easiest way to update people - even when I’m driving.” - user

Insight

Everyone expects good communication from others, but most fail to meet their own expectations

The survey data revealed a striking disparity between users’ expectations and reality when communicating with people they’re meeting up with.

 

While every single respondent said they want to know the status of those they’re meeting up with, less than a quarter said they actually provide accurate status updates themself. 

Insight

Communicating is just one more thing to worry about

Talking to users helped me contextualize the survey data to understand the “why” behind the numbers. I discovered that when users are meeting up with others, they’re usually focussed on getting where they need to go. If they’re running late they’re probably stressed out too.

 

Providing status updates to others can often be a distraction as well as an additional source of stress. 

“I try to keep people updated, but when I’m late and stressed out sometimes I forget.” - user

The real problem

Sh*t happens. Sometimes lateness is unavoidable and providing updates isn’t always easy, but it’s still expected of us

The challenge of communicating when meeting up with others emerged from the research as a glaring problem. 

 

Because this problem affects even the most punctual among us, I decided to define personas situationally, as scenarios many users have found themselves in at one point or another. I worried that traditional personas would impose unnecessary constraints on solving a problem that doesn’t discriminate.

The hypothesis

I distilled my research insights into the following hypothesis...

A google maps feature that allows multiple users to see eachother's real time trip progress will help them focus more on getting where they need to go and less on sending updates.

Ideation

From too much to not enough

I used brainstorming to kickstart my creativity and purge some unconscious biases I had for how information should be organized and presented on the screens. 

 

Initially, I envisioned representing multiple users’ positions on the map as they moved towards a shared destination. However, after sketching this idea, I realized that it provided too much unnecessary information in a way that was distracting. 

 

After another attempt, I still wasn’t satisfied - I worried that I had overcorrected and failed to present quantitative information in an easy to read format. 

A balanced presentation of the right information

At this point, I decided to take a step back and define what users really need to know about the status of others they’re meeting up with. I started by listing out all trip related information that could potentially be shared. Then I sorted it into two categories - essential and non-essential.

This exercise forced me to consider why certain information is important and how it could be represented to better align with users’ mental models.

 

For instance, I realized that users often want to understand their ETA or time to a destination in relation to the status of others. This requires some level of cognitive effort, which could be reduced by visually representing relative progress in terms of time.

The framework

Designing a familiar flow

I worked backwards within the existing Google Maps framework to design flows for both a trip creator and a trip invitee. The users I interviewed had described the app’s existing core flow as highly intuitive, so I decided to use this as a model.

 

I chose to prioritize familiarity, hoping this would reduce friction in the first experience for users, most of whom don't have the time or patience to learn new behaviors when they’re on the go.

Visual design

Speaking the Material Design language

I used Google’s material design library and focussed on repurposing components when possible.

 

The trip progress bar presented an opportunity to innovate using material design principles as constraints for potential layouts, interactions, and animations. My goal was to introduce new functionality that looks and feels familiar.

Interaction and prototyping

Motion as a metaphor

I designed the interaction framework using motion as a visual metaphor for a user’s real-time progress along their route. I began prototyping in Invision Studio because it supports timeline animations. However, after encountering a bug that made an entire tool panel inaccessible, I realized I needed to find a more reliable option.

 

Ultimately, I decided to animate the trip progress screen in Principle and import it as a GIF to Invision (as opposed to Invision Studio), which had better sharing capabilities than Principle. 

Introducing...

Trip sharing with Google Maps

The trips tab

Based on my research I knew that the feature needed to be highly visible and easily accessible. To achieve this, I added a "Trips" tab to the bottom navigation menu, where users can access past and upcoming trips, or create a new trip.

How it works

1. Create a new trip

2. Invite others

(or accept an invite for a trip created by someone else)

3. See everyone's status in real time

(and see delays on other travelers' routes)

Refinement

Usability testing

Testing the prototype revealed some uncertainty among users about when their status was being shared and whether their location was also being shared. I had observed some anxiety around location sharing in the user interviews as well, which is why I had chosen to include it as an opt in rather than a default.

 

I realized that I needed to help users feel more confident they were only sharing what they wanted to share when they wanted to share it. To do this, I introduced clearer calls to action, creating a distinction between joining a trip and starting the navigation. I also added a modal screen to confirm that only the user’s estimated arrival time will be shared unless they change their location sharing preferences.

©2019 by Phoebe Goldenberg.