MapQuest

User Experience Design Group

What can others learn from how you conceived of and designed your mobile solution or application?: 

Getting stakeholder buy-in early on in the redesign process was critical to the success of the product. In addition to taking the time to set expectations early, the team brought diverse talents to the table to discuss architecture solutions, revenue implications, feasibility, and ultimately design needs. Whether through daily collaboration or weekly check-ins, each team had their own dramatic impact on the final product. Two of the designers locked ourselves in a war room to minimize distraction, and also allow stakeholders to check in whenever their schedule allowed. While this project was imagined as a “re-skin” of an existing application – it quickly became apparent that there was a lot of what the team referred to as “User Experience Debt” and “Technical Debt” that we all agreed needed to be “paid down”. In realizing this, the team also realized that the underlying user flows and technical architecture were not going to support the advances we intended to accomplish.

The war room concept came full circle toward the end of the project. What started out as a way for two designers to focus on the product and each other’s ideas morphed into a way for the entire development, product, design, QA, and management team to keep abreast of the final hours of development and testing for the release candidate. The war room operated as a "home base” where delegates from each team reported progress and blockers to ensure we released the best product we could, before the deadline. 

Please describe how the concept for your mobile solution or application came about, and what research, information, inspiration, etc. informed it.: 

The team had the luxury of a strong feedback loop with customers having been established when the previous version of the application was released. This, combined with a “blank slate” approach to the visual design mean that nothing was “off the table.” Much of the user experience design focused on reducing cognitive overhead for users who, in all likelihood, would be using this application while driving, while lost in a new place, or in any number of other high-stress situations. This meant reducing taps, limiting unnecessary decision points, improving legibility and eliminating visual clutter.

How does your mobile solution or application take advantage of the unique device capabilities, contexts of use, modes of use, and other factors to create a new and valuable experience or utility?: 

Turn-By-Turn navigation apps are renowned for pushing the boundaries of mobile device capabilities. When dealing with Android devices, device capability and consistency are unreliable at best. And to some degree, this is true of iOS devices too, considering the majority of iPads are sold without 3G/4G access. However, the app was designed from the ground up to take full advantage of the features and capabilities of top-tier devices – things like 3G/4G/LTE access, GPS, clever interaction between phone audio and app audio, local notifications (alerts and instructions pop up on screen when the app is running in the background). We focused on building the best experience we could on the best devices on the market, and then ensured that messaging and functionality guaranteed that while the experience degraded on less capable devices, we informed the user effectively and set expectations fairly. Another major improvement was the shift from providing data, to displaying information; things like alerting users, not just to the existence of traffic ahead, but the nature of that traffic and the potential impact on their trip, and where it exists on their route; like really polishing the timing and volume of voice navigation to reduce distraction; and the route progress bar. All of these things provide information to the user in an unobtrusive way, and with minimal user input needed.

In what ways has your mobile solution or application benefited the lives and/or work of its users in ways that weren’t previously possible?: 

Our app gives people insight into the most efficient route from A to B, while taking into account traffic congestion and their preferred road and street types. It also allows them to locate all businesses within a general category around them, or search for a specific business or address – supporting two modes: browsing/discovery or focused targeting of a known POI. Another useful feature is the overall route progress bar, which not only indicates generally how far through the trip a user is, but also where they can expect to see traffic ahead of them and how bad it will be. The main benefit to all of these features is the fact that the app is focused on safety at every turn. Font size and weight, audio feedback, and automatic traffic rerouting all converge to reduce the user’s need to focus on anything other than getting where they need to go.

If applicable, how did you adapt your solution or application to differing platforms?: 

While our previous app was virtually the same on both Android and iOS platforms, the redesign focused on – and continues to focus on – ways to maintain visual, brand, and experiential consistency across platforms, while tailoring the micro interactions and visual style to align with users’ expectations of each. Special attention was paid to the function of the hardware “Back” button on Android. In addition, the development team made very effective use of the more diverse hardware and software options that are part and parcel of the Android ecosystem.

How might your mobile solution or application serve as inspiration or a starting point for future innovations for mobile platforms?: 

This app acts as a platform upon which we and our partners can build the future, including innovative products and features like allowing users to optimize commutes, offering up travel and lodging bookings on longer, multi-day trips, options for customization, from personally relevant iconography and styling, to branded map and voice-nav experiences, and even helping users plan travel - not just driving directions, but things to see and do, tips and off-the-beaten-path information from which other users can benefit.”

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