First Look – Exploring The New Google Maps

To my surprise the new Google maps is available already. Upon receipt of the email providing me with a special link I immediately launched maps from Chrome for a quick, first look. The first thing I noticed was the browser was all maps… no wasted space, simply a huge browser and screen with a map canvas. An “Explore” search box is shown in the upper left area and to my surprise has recalled some of my recent searches. I also have quick access to Directions and transit or bicycle information as well (depends on region). I immediately try a test search and opt for the “coffee” search (See image below). I search for “coffee” in Victoria, B.C. Results are displayed right on the map and labelled along with a nice little coffee mug icon. I can optionally see places suggested by top reviewers or from my circles – yes those G+ circles can come in handy! The results from “experts” are quite interesting… I’m not seeing the full results of Starbucks, Tim Horton’s and the like, rather, the map is showing me a nice selection of local shops, many are coffee roasters and other specialty shops, no doubt offering a “superior” coffee experience. Mousing over any of the icons reveals an info box showing a stars rating based on customer reviews.

Directions are likely going to a huge hit by users. Searching for directions provides results in the explore box. Users can quickly select from Drive, walk, bike, transit, and fly to the destination with the routes, times, and more info provided. Public transit data is totally awesome, with next departure info provided as well as an awesome gant chart style display that shows you walk time to the nearest stop as well as the next several departures… so cool!

Other new features: Clicking any place on the map and then on a street will bring up results of the address in the search box along with a small icon of a Street View of that place.  A ribbon of images showing special places of interest within the area are displayed along the bottom of the map window. I also notice inside the explore search box that an option exists for viewing bicycle data. Clicking the bicycle link will reveal designated bike trails and bike friendly roads on the map – nice!

Like many of you, I had a chance to catch the Google I/O keynote describing all the new functionality coming in Google Maps. I put together a short feature along with a suggested list of Top 10 new features in Google Maps… enjoy the read!