From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Google and Microsoft Upgrade Their Map Sites

Google and Microsoft tweaked their map sites in May. Early comment weighs one against the other, and gives one upgrade points for usability.

Google Maps now provides a Street View option, a 360-degree, pavement-level, close-in look around selected cities. The widely-reported observation that it allows users to read number plates, see faces and peek into windows appears to be no more than a slight exaggeration. The Drudge Report notes that Street View even gives users a look at Steve Jobs’ house.

A writer featured in Wired News likes the usability of the option, describing it as a “no brainer.” He notes there are big navigation arrows and dragging the picture rotates the viewpoint. And an article in The Washington Post points out that the simple Flash pop-up for Street View appears to run on most browsers.

Enthusiasm for Microsoft’s Live Search Maps program, on the other hand, isn’t yet evident. According to the company’s description, its new Virtual Earth 3D features, built into the existing Live Search Maps browser interface, gives users an immersive 3-D search experience that allows the consumer to search, browse and organize local information in a three-dimensional way.

The Washington Post article praises the Microsoft program for expanding the list of cities for which it provides high-definition three-dimensional flyover views, but points to some negatives. It explains that the feature requires a plug-in and a reasonably powerful graphics card with the right driver software already on board. And the In so many words, article notes, in so many words, that the option it is also picky about browsers. 

An article in May in Britain’s Guardian newspaper suggests that as far as usability is concerned, Google’s map site starts with an edge. It reports that some of Britain’s local councils are using the free maps from Google on their public web sites rather than maps from the country’s official source, the Ordnance Survey.

Explaining the reasoning, Dane Wright, IT service manager at Brent Council in north London, said traditional geographical information systems provide "complex data, complex systems.” Google Maps, by contrast, provides "complex data, simple systems."  Wright noted that Google Maps provides a better user experience – “familiar interface, easy to use, integrated aerial imagery, attractive, no need for training or large manuals."

Sources: Google; Microsoft; Wired News; Drudge Report; The Washington Post