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Lessons from a frustrated Apple Maps designer

October 1st, 2012 Jeremy Jeremy

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Last year, a few weeks before receiving my Apple Design Award, Apple started talking to me about joining the Maps team. Though working for Apple had been a dream of mine for a while, I decided I preferred the thrill of making my own products.

Let’s imagine I accepted the gig. How would I feel right about now? I would have worked my heart out for the past year and a half, designing the most elegant turn-by-turn mapping solution available, and now this. The CEO of Apple has just written a humiliating apology for my work. I would be ashamed to tell people what I do at Apple.

The most frustrating thing? It wasn’t really my fault. The design was awesome. The turn-by-turn directions UI was a home-run. The vector-based maps were super fast and efficient. It was the best.

Except for one thing. The content.

The sub-par content, perhaps blown somewhat out of proportion by the press (many people I know have yet to find any issues), has caused the general public to all but ignore any innovations or positive qualities the Maps team delivered. It’s really a shame.

Great arguments have been made about the inevitability of Apple’s Maps woes but my point is this: content rules for content-based apps. If you get the content wrong, folks won’t even notice your awesome user interface. To them, the app is broken. Lame, lame, lame.

This is a lesson we all need to learn because I think we tend to ignore content. We spend most of our time on the shell around the content and not enough time testing the content itself in the wild. It has caused me to want to do a lot more content testing for Languages because the quality of content, even if there is little you can do about it at the time, can affect the design decisions you ultimately make and the expectations you set for users in marketing.

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