Former Google Maps Chief Designer Critiques New Design for Readability Issues

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Former Google Maps Chief Designer Critiques New Design for Readability Issues

Elizabeth Laraki, former chief designer for Google Maps, has sharply criticized her former employer for the recently distributed new map design of Google Maps. Similar to many other customers, she finds fault with it. She articulates her criticism expertly in a post on X. Her critique extends beyond just the new color scheme; she also identifies missed opportunities.

She co-designed the old map layout of Google Maps with another individual. From 2007 to 2009, she led the design team for Google Maps and had nearly two years of experience as a designer prior to that. Laraki notably contributed to integrating Google Maps into Google Search. Following this, she worked on the design of the video streaming service at YouTube from 2009 to 2011 before departing from Google.

Similar to many regular users, Laraki laments the decreased readability and visibility of map details. All roads are now in a shade of gray, making it harder to distinguish from the background, which often presents a different shade of gray. Consequently, the yellow marking for major roads, highways, and freeways has been eliminated.

Colors depicting water bodies, parks, or forests now blend together

“Admittedly, I find that major roads, traffic, and trails now stand out more,” says Laraki. However, she quickly adds, “But the colors representing water bodies and parks/open spaces blend into each other.” Water is no longer blue but turquoise, while parks, nature reserves, forests, and open spaces are in mint green.

Summing it up, she says, “It feels colder, less precise, and less human.” She perceives the map as appearing “more computer-generated.” Laraki also regrets that Google Maps remains overloaded with elements and misses out on opportunities for other improvements. In her view, there are too many control elements in Google Maps that disrupt the focus on the map. She wishes for fewer overlapping elements.

Other persistent issues with Google Maps

According to her statement, she has been using Google Maps for 16 years. Notably, she omits mentioning that the scaling function of Google Maps has not been improved. Essential information often remains unseen because the chosen zoom level doesn’t align with what Google considers correct. Thus, points of interest like restaurants, gas stations, or similar places might be missing if the precise zoom level specified by Google isn’t selected.

The problem also exists with the display of street names: it often takes a long time until the zoom level is reached where Google Maps shows the names of the streets within the map view.

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William Wylie
William Wylie, a tech writer with a penchant for future tech, shares his perspective on the ever-evolving world of tech, offering a glimpse into the next big breakthroughs.