Google Maps got a major update, and people hate it

Google Maps is rolling out on the Pixel 8 Pro, showing off the new colors until November 2023.
Joe Maring/

For the past few weeks, Google has been quietly introducing a new color for its popular Google Maps app — and it’s wreaking havoc this holiday travel season.

Although some people may be disappointed by any changes made to such an established and widely used app, it seems there’s more to people than just being frustrated by unfamiliar colors. With many people expressing their displeasure with the redesign on social media, professional user interface (UI) designers have been joined in expressing similar, but more subtle comments. Even a designer who once worked on Google Maps is calling the new design a backward step for the service’s usability.

People have described the new design as attractive on social media. “Like a normal map installed in a car navigation system with a CD-ROM.” others say The new maps look “sad” while some have appreciated the changes As in the nostalgia of “looking at an old map in the library”.

A step backward for accessibility

Reddit post from a user commenting on the Google Maps redesign and colorblind users.

However, there is a more important consideration on the new colors in Google Maps that the company’s designers have completely ignored – they are not friendly to people who are color-blind. While many people have complained about this New colors are 30,000 times less accessibleFor some people it is a more serious problem.

As one Redditor wrote: “What’s surprising is that whoever designed this has literally never heard of the most common form of color-blindness before.” Several posts on Reddit’s r/ColorBlind have pointed out that the new design has made it harder, if not impossible, for color-blind people to use Google Maps effectively. One Redditor, James Connolly, has even started a petition calling on Google to reverse the color change on behalf of the color-blind community.

“I am one of the 300 million people around the world who suffer from color-blindness,” Connolly said in the petition. “The recent changes Google has made to its Maps application have made it difficult for me and others like me to use this essential tool effectively. The new look is not color-blind friendly, which is a big blow for those of us who rely on the service on a daily basis.

The interesting thing is that this is not a new problem. Six years ago a Reddit post in r/ColorBlind expressed concern about poor color choices in Google Maps during its last color scheme update.

Is Google (badly) copying Apple Maps?

Offline Maps feature for Apple Maps in iOS 17.
digital trends

If you think the new color scheme in Google Maps looks too Apple-like, you’re not alone. When? 9to5Google first reported the change after Google began testing it in late August, accurately noting that the more vibrant blue “immediately compares to Apple Maps” and specifically those Will be obvious to people who live or travel near a body of water.

It was not alone. Former Google Maps designer Elizabeth Larkey Wrote a long post on X (the social network formerly known as Twitter) is also suggesting that Google’s redesign is similar to Apple Maps — but in all the wrong ways.

“It feels colder, less accurate, and less human,” Larkey wrote, adding, “More importantly, they missed a key opportunity to simplify and scale it.”

The color palette replaces the white and yellow roads with brown, changes the water to a teal color that will be instantly familiar to Apple Maps fans, and goes for a more pastel mint for the parks and forest areas.

Comparison of the old and new color schemes of Google Maps in 2023.
Elizabeth Laraki/X

However, the new colors make it look like Google is dressing up a bovine. While Laraki acknowledges that “major roads, traffic and pathways are now more emergent,” she adds that “water and parks/open spaces blend together.” The biggest problem, however, is not the new colors, but the fact that Google did nothing to clean up the “maps mess.”

In discussing the redesign with CNBC, Laraki said, “If you’re going to go through such a significant change that’s very noticeable to people, there’s so much focus on making these very noticeable dramatic changes to the map tiles. Centering seems to be an interesting choice, but still leaves all the blemish on top of the map there. He also said that it “looks more akin to Apple Maps coloring than Google Maps coloring.”

However, there’s more to the beauty of Apple Maps than just its color options. As Laraki notes, Google Maps still consists of about 11 different elements, including a search box and “8 bullets in 4 rows” to show things like temperature, layers, quick search, and location and direction buttons. Are included. Then there are the “peeking cards” that pop up from the bottom, just above the navigation bar.

In contrast, Apple Maps offers a fairly clean UI that puts the map almost exclusively front and center. While five similar “pills” overlay the map, they are much smaller than Google Maps and spaced apart around the edges – three in the top-right corner for layers, location, and 3D/2D views, At the bottom left there’s a -look around mode to start, and at the bottom right there’s a mode that shows weather and air quality indices (where available).

Two iPhones showing a comparison between Google Maps and Apple Maps.
Google Maps (left) vs. Apple Maps Jesse Hollington/

There is nothing at the top either. Instead, Apple Maps blends into the area right next to the iPhone’s notch or dynamic island. Below there is a pull-up card with a search field and other options, but no navigation bar for switching between modes like Google Maps.

In his tweet, Laraki proposed a new design that would “bury less-used features elsewhere in the app”, with only a search bar at the top and a redesigned nav bar at the bottom that would allow Go, Will lose contribute and update buttons. In favor of the location, directions and layer buttons that were previously present on the map. Such a design would still be more cluttered than Apple Maps, but it would be a big step in the right direction.

Comparison of the current Google Maps redesign and the proposed new design.
Elizabeth Laraki/X

It’s also strange that Google made such a dramatic change without any clear public statement explaining its rationale. In an email to CNBC, a Google spokesperson said: “We’re always thinking about how to make Google Maps more accurately reflect the real world. We designed our updates based on extensive research and feedback from users – with the goal of making Maps easier to use and understand. For example, roads are now darker to look more like real roads and provide a better canvas for useful details like lanes.”

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