Designing Google Maps for Motorbikes
How getting your hands dirty during the research phase can lead to better, more inclusive products
By Next Billion Users
When our Google Maps research team began traveling to India and Indonesia, we wanted to understand the changing needs of people living in rapidly growing global communities. We took a closer look at Delhi and Jakarta, two of the most populous cities in these countries, and quickly realized that Google Maps was falling short.
In Delhi, the time people spend in traffic has doubled in the last six years. In Jakarta, the average is 22 days a year. Due to these challenges, “two-wheelers,” or motorcycles and scooters, are an overwhelmingly popular way to get around. The ability to weave through traffic, and a cheaper price point (compared to cars), make two-wheelers particularly efficient. Our on-the-ground research made it clear that this mode of transport is a way of life in these cities. There was just one problem: Google Maps was designed for cars.
First, we had to adapt the product to the growing number of people who rely on two-wheelers. Spending time with drivers in the field helped us build the new two-wheeler mode for Google Maps—available on Android in India and Indonesia—which includes improved voice navigation, custom routes, shortcuts, and more landmarks for better orientation while traveling by two wheels instead of four. Though this specific set of features may not directly apply to your product, immersive research tactics bring value to any design process and lead to better products. Here, Google researcher Raj Arjan and designer Lauren Celenza outline their biggest takeaways for helping product teams find new opportunities to connect with the people they’re building for.