The new look of Google Maps

Hot on the heels of our new style for the Google Maps user interface, today we are pushing out some further improvements to our map design to match the updated look and feel and further improve the usability of our maps.

Amongst the changes you will find a plethora of subtle changes, designed to make the map cleaner, more focused, more visually harmonious, and easier to use. Some highlights to look out for are a brighter and more cheerful color palette, a more integrated and less visually noisy labeling style, subtle improvements to footpaths and minor roads, and cleaner building and land parcel rendering.

Most of these improvements, like many that we’ve made over the last couple of years, are gentle enough that many people won’t even notice the difference. When you add them together, however, and then compare to how the map looked even as recently as two years ago, it’s remarkable to see how dramatic the change is.

Compare how our maps of New York looked in 2009, then again the same time in 2010, and now with the new tiles for 2011. The improved colour scheme and less jarring label outlines help the labels to feel part of the map, as opposed to a distracting overlay. It’s also easier to distinguish the city name, neighborhoods, and roads through subtle changes in label color:

The visually heavy highway shields are now integrated into the road labels, and the brighter and cleaner style shifts the focus onto the road names and prominent landmarks in the area. London is one place that benefits from this:

The style evolution has enabled us to place more information whilst still making the map feel simpler. In the case of Sydney, thinner and cleaner roads, better representation of tunnels, more subtle footpaths in the parks, and more subtle labeling all contribute:

We hope you enjoyed this quick retrospective and find the new improvements to the map style helpful. There are many more than have been highlighted here, so have a look around Google Maps today and see if you can spot any improvements to your local area.

Getting from A to B just got a little easier

Over the past year, the Google Maps Directions team has been hard at work developing a variety of design improvements to make getting and following directions much easier.

It’s now simpler than ever to switch transport modes, change the time/date of your trip, get a high-level overview comparing different routes, and view details of a single trip at-a-glance.

To explore these improvements in more depth, let’s imagine that you’re planning a trip to visit the beautiful city of Zürich, and would like to take public transportation from the airport to your destination in town.

We’ve made it super quick and easy for you to see all the available modes of transportation when you’re planning a route – you can see that driving, public transit, and walking are all available in this area. The options for setting a time and date for your trip are also now open by default for public transit
Having selected your start location and end destination, you are presented with a series of suggested routes to take you from A to B. Each description is now much richer, making it easier to differentiate between similar routes:

Once you select a route, the individual steps for the trip are dramatically simplified and cleaner in the new design. The stations at which you’ll need to transfer, and the number of stops in between are now much more apparent. The sections of the route that involve walking are also much easier to spot since they’re indicated by a dotted line on the left:

Clicking on any step will also display more information. For example, we now show the stop preceding the one where you’ll need to get off, so that you can get your bags ready and prepare to disembark. And we’ve introduced turn-by-turn direction indicators for walking, driving and cycling:

Stay tuned for further changes as we continue to refine and improve your experience using directions from Google Maps. Enjoy your travels!