Last week I discussed the cognitive account of Google Maps and escpecially, Google Map’s newest (and personally believed to be the coolest) application. How easy it was mentally to navigate around the site and search for exactly what the user was looking for. In the second age of the internet, also known as Web 2.0, all sites are transitioning into user based media. The whole goal of Web 2.0 is to place the user in the driver seat. This posed new types of questions to web developers all over. When before it was essential to create a site or application that was easy to navigate with, it is now just as important to create a site that is easy to navigate in as it is to create a site that is easy to communicate with. This can be accomplished through verbal/ non-verbal communication, schedules/rules/conventions, and shared external representations.
Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication
Verbal Communication is any text displayed on the screen to guide the user. Immediately when accessing Google Maps, the user is presented with limited information, yet by no means do they feel restricted. Google is known for their search engine and their search bar is most prevalent on the screen. Below the search bar is a sentence hinting the user to search for “places of business, addresses, and places of interest. The non-verbal communication displayed is the obvious search bar which is supposed to immediately attract the user along with some verbal communication to provide hints for the user. A first time user may not know that you don’t have to search only for an address but you also can search for, well, almost anything.
Schedules, Rules, and Conventions
The layout and design of Google Maps makes it very easy to tell that the main screen is the broad yet simple starting point for the application. The user is limited by only what they see. While they start with only a few possible routes, having a map of the United States subconsciously tells the user that this is only just a small beggining for a huge application. For the time being, the user will have to follow the rules until they begin to narrow down their search. If the user had previous use of Google Maps, they may have set a default location and would be able to bypass the starting screen completely. Also if they were a more frequent and envolved user, they may even have already saved multiple locations in ‘My Maps’. The user has to follow the rules and conventions when navigating but will quickly realize that navigation is very simple.
Shared External Representations
Once a search is complete and a destination has been found, the user has the option to communicate much more with Google Maps and even other users. I touched on this briefly last week when discussing problem- solving, planning, reasoning, and decision- making. Not only can the user find the destination they are looking for, they are able to recieve real feed back from living people. They are provided with reviews, photos, videos, externally linked web-sites, and even a menu. The Google Maps experience exists not only within the application but externally as well.