Adding contact location in Google Maps

UX case study to simplify saving locations of phone contacts on Google Maps
Background

I am an avid Google Maps user and rely heavily upon it to commute around the city and for planning road trips. One feature that I wished were better, was the ability to save locations. For instance while visiting a friend, I would drop a pin and mark it as a ‘Starred location’. Since we cannot give the location a name like “Dan’s house”, the only option is to zoom in on the area and search manually.

I checked out Apple Maps and was quite surprised by the option to save a location to one of your contacts. Next time I need to visit John, I could just open the phonebook and find his location. Or even better, just ask Siri - “Get directions to John’s house”.

​Or “Book a Uber to John’s house”.

So why does one of the most widely used mapping application not support this feature? The business reason could be on iOS, locations are opened on Apple Maps by default. But that should not stop Google from doing it on Android.

Objective

Add an option in Google Maps to save a contact’s location in phonebook.

User research

I asked a few of my friends who use Google Maps regularly and tried to understand how they were saving locations and what problems they faced. I kept the questions open-ended and not leading such as, “Do you want a feature to save location information of your contacts in the phonebook?”.

After speaking to ten people I observed that only 4/10 users actually perform this task. That is when I realised that there are two types of users — simple and expert. Most people check routes to commercial establishments like hotels, restaurants, etc. Only few used options such as Labels and Starred locations to save specific locations. As opposed to “Starred locations”, “Labels” provided a better option to name a specific location. While Labels do serve the purpose, voice assistants like Siri will not be able to access this information.

So is it a problem worth solving?

There could be two reasons why only few people use this feature

a) they have no need for it OR

b) they are not aware of it

 

A simple Google search “add to contacts from google maps iphone” brought up different variations of the phrase in auto-suggest. So it is safe to assume that many people need this feature and are trying to figure out alternatives.

“It is not the customer’s job to figure out what they want” — Steve Jobs

Wireframe

Prototype

Version 1.0

Initially I decided to list the options under the ‘Save’ menu as I felt it made logical sense. However while creating the mockups, I realised that the newly added options were at the bottom of the list and users may not notice it. So I decided to create a separate menu called ‘Contacts’. On clicking that, users could save the pinned location to a new contact or an existing contact. Once the location was saved, the ‘Contacts’ menu was hidden to indicate to the user that information has been saved.

User testing

  • I described the below scenario to the users and asked them to complete the task.

  • “You are visiting your friend’s house for the first time and would like to store his location. How would you do this with Google Maps?”

  •  

  • I used the word “store” instead of “save” as there was already an option called “Save” and did not want to bias the user.

  • Users approached the task the way they normally do and did not notice the newly added “Contacts” option at first glance 😓

  • When the default option did not work and the “Contacts” menu was highlighted, only then the users tried it.

  • For few users I disabled the hotspot and the result was pure mayhem! Since the prototype had very few touchpoints and did not handle the existing scenarios like “Save” and “Label”, users were frustrated after a while. They assumed nothing worked and did not even try the “Contacts” option. The users felt they were being tested instead of the app.

 

“After a few seconds of seeing nothing happen, all I wanted to do was just complete the task somehow and get out of the app” — a frustrated user. 😤

Learnings

  • Avoid hotspot hinting to observe if the users organically discover the new changes.

  • While making changes to an existing product such as an app, make sure the commonly used options (identified during user research) are handled. Or it leads to user getting frustrated and abandoning the product.

Results

  • People tried the “Save” option first before stumbling upon “Contacts”. When asked why, they said it felt more logical.

  • Hiding the “Contacts” menu while the “Save” and “Label” menus are still displayed (after the location is saved) is confusing to some users. They were not sure if the action was completed.

Version 2.0

Based on this feedback, I made the below changes to the prototype.

1. Restructured the “Save” menu

2. After contact is saved, the menu option changed to “Saved”.

Results

  • Users were able to discover the newly added options under Save menu easily.

  • The signifier provided by the “Saved” button provided confirmation to the user that action is completed.

Key outcomes

Modifying the user interface of an existing application without incurring user's wrath is a tough challenge. It is essential to build on the existing mental models and providing appropriate cues to guide the users to newly added features.