What Happened to Google Maps?

Justin O’Beirne explores some design changes to Google Maps over the past few years:

Browsing Google Maps over the past year or so, I’ve often thought that there are fewer labels than there used to be. Google’s cartography was revamped three years ago – but surely this didn’t include a reduction in labels? Rather, the sparser maps appear to be a recent development.

Coming across this article I was immediately reminded of an article from 2010 that provided in-depth analysis and discussion of Google Maps in comparison to Bing Maps and Yahoo Maps – turns out that article was by Justin O’Beirne as well!

The trouble with 3D Touch

Jason Snell isn’t entirely happy with 3D Touch:

Although Apple’s proud of the peek/pop interface that it unveiled with the iPhone 6s, I’m skeptical of its utility. Most of the time, when I accidentally initiate a “peek” of the content behind whatever I’m pressing on, it’s content I was already trying to see by tapping. Loading a “peek” doesn’t really take any more time than actually tapping on an item and loading the result, and returning back to the previous screen seems a lot less work than holding your finger on the glass while you peruse a “peek” to see if it’s worth opening the rest of the way.

In other words, most of the time I don’t see any benefit to using 3D Touch to reveal content in apps over just tapping to reveal that content the usual way. It’s a solution to a problem we didn’t have.

That’s exactly what I was thinking when Apple announced the feature last fall: “Why the hell would anyone use “peek” when I might as well just click through?” Back then I hadn’t had a chance to try the feature for real and was certain to have missed something, but it would seem that initial skepticism was right.

Jason goes on to propose a simple fix for 3D Touch – make it backwards-compatible with the majority of the iPhone install base:

That’s why the right thing for Apple to do is to change the behavior of 3D Touch in a future version of iOS so that it has a non–3D-Touch equivalent. In other words, 3D Touch should just be a faster, more efficient version of a gesture that every iOS user can perform. That way, users of devices with 3D Touch will get a benefit, but app developers don’t have to think about implementing a feature that won’t work with most devices.

Sounds about right to me.

More Chinese Mobile UI Trends

At the end of 2014 Dan Grover posted a fascinating article about Chinese Mobile UI Trends. The article was a revelation to me, because the Chinese app market is an environment that is largely impenetrable to most westerners, and in addition to that, it’s also remarkably secluded from western internet giants like Google and Facebook and could therefore develop in ways that are distinctly different from western app design trends.

Luckily Dan followed up his first article with another one describing even more Chinese mobile UI trends and it’s just as fascinating as the first one.

Recommended Reading: Chat bots, conversation and AI as an interface

I just read and enjoyed this:

Chat bots tap into two very current preoccupations. On one hand, the hope that they can actually work is a reflection of the ongoing explosion of AI, and on the other, they offer a way to reach users without having to get them to install an app.

Read “Chat bots, conversation and AI as an interface — Benedict Evans”

Recommended Reading: This group of researchers uses science to maximize the fun in Ubisoft’s games

I just read and enjoyed this:

If it weren’t for this team, you likely wouldn’t be able to ride animals in Far Cry Primal, figure out the compass in The Division or master some of the moves in Assassin’s Creed.

Read “This group of researchers uses science to maximize the fun in Ubisoft’s games”

The Shannara Chronicles Season 1


This was presented as MTV’s take on Game of Thrones, so what could possible go wrong? It’s terribly shallow, the whole visual design is hilariously over the top like in an 80s fantasy movie and the actors are mostly eye candy. Still turned out to be a guilty pleasure.