UX Product Development Is Important
We’ve all been there. You’re driving around some unfamiliar place, searching for an address you’ve begun to expect doesn’t really exist, when you pull out your phone to check Google maps and…crickets. You can’t get a signal or you’re out of data – or both – and now you might actually have stop and ask a real live person for directions or just continue to search somewhat-blindly for your final destination. First world problem? Sure. But a problem, nonetheless.
Not one, however, that Google wasn’t aware of it seems, given their announcement earlier this month about new functionality for their popular Maps service that will allow users to begin storing navigational data offline so that business info and turn-by-turn directions are available even without an internet connection.
There was more than a little post-announcement buzz questioning one of the planet’s leading digital conglomerates for their foray into the “paper maps” business, so to speak. At first glance, that seems understandable. Unless you work in product development. In which case, you can see that Google’s new Maps functionality is a natural (and brilliant) progression of their core services.
It’s all in their rationale for the new feature, which in addition to the common pain-points I described above, also references the drastically slower data speeds and spotty connection issues in emerging markets outside the U.S. It comes down to having a realistic and nuanced understanding of who is using their services and how they’re being used. Regardless of whether offline access was the path they preferred, it was the right direction if it meant improving the user experience.
When in Doubt, Do as Google Does
That’s not at all unlike my own experience in product development here at Ungerboeck. We’ve been the leading provider of purpose-built event and venue management software for more than three decades – and the only way we’ve managed to stay on top has been to understand not just how event organizers and venue managers use our software but to identify with their challenges and how we might be able to address them via technology.
Quite similar to Google users’ challenges with access to Maps, we’re currently developing functionality that will also offer offline access to key portions of our software, in direct response to the experiences and needs of our clients. Knowing that spotty Wi-Fi, bandwidth restrictions and security concerns are all common issues at registration and session check-in at events, this functionality will soon be available offline.
Our continued march toward completely responsive design is yet another example of how the user experience is driving development at Ungerboeck. Given what we know about how many attendees are using mobile devices to access event information online and the nomadic work-patterns of sales reps in the events and venues business, to ignore this shift in the way our software is being used would be a monumental mistake.
I know what’s coming down the pipeline from Ungerboeck (and if you’re at Expo! Expo! this week, you do too), but you never can tell just what Google might have up their sleeve next. Though a good bet would be some way to address the fact that users have to remember to download navigation info from Maps before they find themselves up a creek without an internet connection. And, of course, that there aren’t too many cat videos and pictures of their kids on their phones to have room for it. Good luck with that one, Google.