Google Maps raises the bar
Google have been reworking their Maps, currently available by request to review in beta. The other day Ollie O’Brief blogged with a breakdown of the pros and cons of the new design, arguing it represents a visual improvement but functional regression. Here I’ve thrown a few screenshots together to illustrate the comparisons at different scales from the perspective of clarity and aesthetic value. To broaden the exercise I’ve also included the equivalent maps provided by Bing (Microsoft) and the open collaborative OpenStreetMap project (OSM), and the results are quite interesting. I’m struck by the brightness and clarity the new Google Maps look, which is now only nearly rivalled (in my opinion) by Bing. Google’s old style seems comparatively dark, bland and cluttered. OpenStreetMap’s look is – aside from the hideous green sea – cluttered by its dominating road symbology, a legacy of its strategic focus on street mapping(although this may be under review).
So overall Google’s map redesign seems a positive development, and hopefully the functional shortcomings will be addressed before it goes fully live. You have to wonder if OSM will feel pressure to follow suit at some point soon, perhaps to exploit its natural advantage in terms of qualitative geographical information.
The order of maps below are consistently (1) new Google (2) old Google (3) OpenStreetMap and (4) Bing.