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Google Maps 2013 – A Few Steps Forward, A Few Steps Back


So Google has released an invitation-based beta of their new Google Maps version for 2013, at their developer conference (I/O) last week. I’ve been trying it out over the last few days. Compare the new version above, with the old version at the bottom of this post.

The good:

  • The new fonts used look great.
  • Covering the whole page with the map is great.
  • The cartography has improved a lot. I particularly like the slighty text buffering, and the subtle shading effects at the edge of areas of water. The world looks a lot more beautiful.
  • Fewer red pins – now, selected features show up in a bold, dark red font.
  • The old green and orange road major road colours have just been replaced with yellow and light orange. Much more soothing to the eye.
  • All vector based, so generally is more responsive (snappier) to use. Zooming in and out is very smooth.
  • Public transport display is much improved, both with timetables and route option itineraries, and the display of metro/rail networks and “sign” labels along the routes you take for journeys.
  • Selecting bicycle mode is much more obvious.

The bad:

  • I cannot specify a specific point on the map any more for a pin – it tends to jump to.
  • I cannot switch off display of my “home” and “work” points on the map.
  • I cannot view the (large) map and Street View at the same time, or navigate around the map and have Street View move at the same time.
  • No Pegman any more! I cannot see what streets are on Street View, except by navigating around Street View itself.
  • The image carousel at the bottom seems unnecessary and a waste of bandwidth – although it’s easy enough to switch off.
  • When selecting a POI quite near where I live, Google automatically draws a recommended road route from my home to it, and there seems to be no way to switch this off.
  • “My Maps” seems to have disappeared.
  • Terrain view seems to have gone.
  • Little explanation of symbology or colour meanings – I think this is deliberate, to reduce clutter, but it can be annoying. However key colours do have keys that pop up when needed, e.g. cycle route type, congestion scale.
  • The internal maps for major buildings (stations, shopping centres) seem to have gone.
  • You cannot zoom into the aerial imagery as far as before.
  • There are two few area/district names appearing at many zoom levels, e.g. in central London.
  • Overall feeling is that Google has stripped away too many features, and made doing anything more than a basic look at the map (or finding directions) a bit harder, requiring long mouse clicks or options that are hidden away.

So it looks prettier, and it’s easier to use. But some key features for me (such as the split screen between map and Street View) have disappeared – hopefully only temporarily – so for day-to-day use I find my self using the old map.


29 replies on “Google Maps 2013 – A Few Steps Forward, A Few Steps Back”

The new Google maps is really a display of arrogance on Google’s part. The article lists so many worthwhile things that have gone, and for the most part, a list of inconsequential new features. My attempts at using the new maps have caused pure frustration and hardly any results, even at the most basic level. Google, the idea of software development is to build on the good, not to allow bimbo brained newcomers to have ego trips on big projects such as this. For God’s sake, get a manger worth their salt in to sort out this very annoying mess!

The new Google Maps Sucks!
EveryBody wants the Split Mode Back (Streetview + Maps)

Hey Google what going on? Bad Redesign!

As you mentioned
I cannot view the (large) map and Street View at the same time, or navigate around the map and have Street View move at the same time.’

Yes, used to used this everyday (street view section above the map section) but soon as you expand the small box (showing smaal map bottom right) the map becomes blank.

Very dissapointed.

I have to agree with the previous comments, this is a big disappointment. The road colours are just wrong and do not stand out but the worst thing for me is the loss of the peg man. I just cannot get street view to work . In addition, on the old maps, all the controls were grouped on the left margin, on the new maps, as well a the loss of useful function, it seems to be necessary to swoop all over the screen to find them. Bing maps are not as comprehensive but they are usable.

Incredislow! I clicked on ‘Maps’ and was greeted with a loading bar. Then I dragged the map and waited for it to move. The new version requires a gaming rig to have enough GPU resources for it to be useable.

I liked being able to drag the little man and actually see the Streetview coverage of an area. That’s gone as is every bit of right-clicking functionality that map Google Maps my place to go.

There are some things with which the minimalist mantra of the Google Search page does not go well. Maps need features and the ability to navigate quickly. I thank Google for allowing me to revert to Classic maps but alas I fear that won’t last as long as I’d like.

The new map seems fine to me accept one thing that is road colours, since I am on the road almost all the time, the road colour helps me identify what type of road on the way to my destination but new map doesn’t have, wonder why……

Totally agree. This new color scheme sucks.
This changes are so stupid. I doesn’t have to look different for us to see they are doing new stuffs with maps.
If it allready work, don’t touch it.. not allways “new is better”

An awful abomination of the tried and trusted road colour scheme. Are Google also intending to change the colours of all of the UK road signs? OS maps? Highway Code? DfT policy?

Yes – I can’t find terrain, traffic info or right click lat / long, ruler, etc options. The colours are awful. Like Google Play – this is a big step back in usability.

You’r totally right. This is horrible. And “goole play”… Jesus.. i’ve no word to describe it.
There is no way to see all the application screenshots without zooming.. why??? I’m not f**** blind.
I’t seem designed windows 8 style.. so lame

Is there any way to complain directly in any google page???

I loved the ‘old’ Google maps. I rejoiced the day they returned with an App to iOS after the Apple maps debacle and whilst I embrace change for the better, like the smart search features and whole screen view of the new maps – I can no longer recognise where I live at a glance and also don’t like the reduction in speed.
Motorways in the UK have always been given a blue colour, major A roads dark green, red for minor A roads and B roads yellow. It’s what we in the UK are used to.
I now live in a bland world where all the roads are grey/white, with grey/white side roads and yellow/orange major roads. Looks terrible and takes much longer to read…especially on an iPhone – which for me defeats the purpose of a road map on a mobile device, as you can’t use it whilst driving/navigating without staring at it for longer than is sensible/safe or feeling nauseous.
Unless the colours are returned I will sadly have to find an alternative…(obviously not Apple *ahem* maps though).
Why can’t I select – ‘use standard UK road colours’ as an option? Would that be so hard?

Sorry, i don’t like new google maps because they have removed coloures of road. Now white and orange. Almost every one can memorize diagrams if they had different colures. May be colures is not important If you are studying deeper level but to look at the map quickly to spot business location or attraction areas. I think coloures is important, so you can tell particular location or business by looking inside particular diagram surrounded by different colures of roads. Current map has large area of white and can’t spot any business location quickly. I think google should offer both options so, people who like new map can have new one and people who like to have Original map can have Original.
Good bye for google map and Hello to AA maps they’ve got Original map.

Yellow and orange may be more soothing on the eye, but the change from blue/green/yellow/white to orange/yellow/white is disastrous for anyone with less than perfect vision. Many A roads are shown in white with grey borders, contrasting not much with minor roads or the map background. There is no option to change this colour scheme, imposed by Google for their own ends.
The main point of a map is (still) to be human readable. It isn’t now.

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What I don’t like the most is that you can no longer right click and get the What’s Here. I used that all the time to get the Latitude and Longitude for creating POI’s for my TomTom.

Did google maps do a rollback to a previous version? As a lot of place name labels are missing and ones that should not be there are back!

The new beta version is still very much beta – expect things to shift around for a while before it becomes stable. Hopefully this will also mean many of the above issues get squashed.

I don’t like how slow the new google maps are. One of my main problems is that there is nothing that goes to “my location” as before. The map starts at a far zoom level. I have been switching to the old google maps since I got the invite and I am actually considering to switch to other maps altogether.

Has anyone figured out how to embed the maps in iFrames yet!? I’ve been looking and looking and can’t figure it out.. I don’t want to have to include the api everytime I want a map.

I too am disappointed with some of the missing features:

– split screen between maps and street view
– my maps can be found under my places but this links to the old Google Maps
– no ability to create email or webpage links
– no multiple destinations in directions
– no pegman – or at least the lack of a highlight as to which streets are on street view.

I hope some of these will return. Otherwise it seems to be a victory for looks over functionality.

You can find your “My Maps” by clicking the gear icon on the upper right and selecting My Places.

Just got my beta invite and have been playing around with it. Agree on the stripped out features section – especially ‘My Maps’. Though I gather from the post above that it’s moved to somewhere else – going to have a look at that in a minute. In some ways I agree with moving it elsewhere as part of their wider map development type stuff. The main positive for me is the full screen. Lovely.

Hi Oliver,

While others were watching the Eurovision song contest finales yesterday you and I did the same thing. Thorough evaluation, to which you can add this:
– prettified commercial places icons, standing out more on “more beautiful” world.

Good or bad? Telltale of ‘phase 2’ of a possible shift in Google Maps bussiness case?

Dieter van Werkum

Dieter – don’t worry, I was watching it from start to finish! But yes, good point, business POIs stand out more now in the new one. The map doesn’t pack them in though.

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