Friday, June 16, 2006

Review of Online Mapping Sites: Mapquest



Mapquest was once the king of the online mapping world; the king is dead.

User Friendliness:
The reason Mapquest can be considered semi-user friendly is because there is not much there. On the main screen there are text boxes to enter in address information but that is about it. There is no map already on screen to explore.

Maybe I am being too hard initially with Mapquest. Its search ability to find place names like "hotels" or "Capitol Hill" works much better than Google's. Directions have nice symbols which guide users clearly (a turn right sign for the direction "turn right"). Finally, one can modify what clicking on a map does between re-centering and zooming, and just re-centering.

There is some user unfriendliness. The zoom levels seem a bit arbitrary. The last zoom level is extremely nice with tons of labeling of buildings, streets, and arrows showing one-way streets but the second-to-last zoom level is nothing like that. If one enters in directions that cannot be understood the revising option is confusing and it is difficult to save your edits.

Driving Directions
I successfully used the place names feature to quickly gain the addresses of the start and stop point on the short driving test. The directions were the most direct and time-saving. Points to Mapquest for that! Points were quickly taken away because Mapquest could not find the end point for the long driving test. Both Google and Yahoo! Maps did not have this problem.

Last year I was involved with a business conducting a survey about different mapping engines. Many people said they used Mapquest but almost all then said Mapquest gave them bad directions sometimes. The funny thing was that NONE of these people were asked what they thought about Mapquest, they all just mentioned it on their own. So users beware.

Map Quality and Quantity
With Mapquest you get the road map, period. Do not misunderstand me, the highest zoom level is really nice but in this era of flashy graphics and imagery the road atlases look is outdated.

The road view is only available for the United States and Canada. There is a "world atlas" but all that will show is the borders of countries on a white background.

Extras
Mapquest is Spartan as Sparta after its fall to Athens. There are no extra features to speak of. No live traffic, no alternative views, no additional information. The API is available to the public but I know of no one who uses it.

Summary
Mapquest is a relic of the late 1990s. While other mapping sites strive to improve themselves Mapquest has been treading water in a current.

Next Up: On Monday Catholicgauze takes on Maporama!

1 comment:

Ansi said...

Nice article. Here's a short comparison i wrote about yahoo, google and mapquest.
http://ansiguy.blogspot.com/2006/08/yahoo-maps-beta-released-feature-rich_04.html

http://ansiguy.blogspot.com/2006/07/google-maps-vs-mapquest-whats-your.html