Yahoo Maps Beta vs. Google Maps

I gave up on “Mapquest”: quite some time ago and have been sticking with “Google Maps”: for all my mapping needs.

Now “Yahoo”: is getting into the Ajax-happy map mode with their “Yahoo Maps Beta.”: I looked at it a few times and found it pretty enough.

The real test of any site happens _after_ you visit it out of curiousity. What happens when you need to get from here to there? What happens when you’re not thinking about the technology and you just want to get something done? That’s what separates the “”: from the “Spurl,”: The “Amazon”: and “eBay”: from every other “Here we are starting something on the Internet…isn’t this COOL?” company out there.

Click through for an indepth comparison…

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Later on today I’m driving to Philadelphia to see “Eddie Leigh”: a wonderful speaker and colorectal cancer survivor present “Trauma to Triumph,”: his seminar on cancer awareness and survival. He’s a motivational speaker professionally and a very nice guy.

Normally I would go right to “Google Maps”: to plot out the trip. My car has the built-in GPS but I like to print out directions anyway as backup. Plus, it gives me the address to program in the car.

This time I decided to try “Yahoo Maps beta.”:

h4. First strike against Yahoo…my home address.

I live in West Windsor, NJ. A few years ago, zip codes were consolidated and what used to be called “Princeton Junction” was rolled into West Windsor. West Windsor is the correct town name, but Yahoo Maps said it couldn’t find it and insisted that I select the name as Princeton Junction. Fine. Annoying. Google Maps knew my address was in West Windsor without scolding me…it also recognizes the address as Princeton Junction. Make the switch behind the scenes, don’t interrupt the user. If it’s obvious that it’s the same place just go there. If it’s wrong, I’ll tell you.

Yahoo Maps has a lot more going on than Google, so as a result the page is slower to load and work with (click to enlarge to actual size). Moving around is nowhere near as smooth as it is on Google.

h4. Second strike against Yahoo… direction detail.

On Google, you can select the number in the direction step and it brings up a close-up *right on the map* so you can see exactly what’s going on at that turn. Yahoo tries to do the same thing, but instead of the closeup being on the map, it pops up underneath the direction step:


What’s wrong with that? Context. I want to see where that detail is in relation to the whole map. Little box by itself means nothing.

This is Google’s view of the same step:


Maybe it’s me, but I think the context helps the detail make sense. Otherwise, it’s simply “look what we can do!” which gets old _fast._

h4. Third strike against Yahoo…assumptions.

What’s that saying about when you make assumptions? Enter starting address in “A”, ending address in “B.” If there’s a business at that address, it assumes you want to go there. But if there’s more than one business at that address, you have to select which one. It asks you to select a business nearby or close the window to continue. What’s up with that? Just take me to the #$@%^ address and don’t make me take an extra click to tell you that I don’t want to do what you shouldn’t have assumed I wanted to do (find a business). Maybe a friend lives at that address. Maybe I just want to see what’s going on in the center of Philadelphia. #1 rule of technology in my book…make what I want to do easier for me and then *get the heck out of my way*.

h4. Fourth strike against Yahoo…printing.

On Google, you hit the “print” button and it prints using a print stylesheet. Map one one page, directions on the other. Big type, clear and easy to read. Straightforward and simple.

On Yahoo, you hit the “print” button and it tries to do something in a pop-up. A pop-up? You have windows sliding all over the place and when I want to print you throw me a pop-up? I have Firefox set to allow resized Javascript pop-ups to open in a new window, but hitting the “Printable Version” button in Yahoo maps throws up Firefox’s pop-up blocker and I can’t click down to show the window anyway. It does nothing.


One thing I can say in Yahoo’s favor is that the “live traffic” button is a good idea…but it should only report on traffic on the route I have marked. Do I care what is happening 20 miles away? No, not really.

h4. Bottom line

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m jaded. But the whole Alax “Look isn’t this cooooolll how you can click and things fade in and out” thing doesn’t do it for me anymore. It’s about as exciting as Flash or the fact that you can play a movie in a browser window. A map site should be clear and straightforward. I need to see where something is, and I need to know how to get there in a way that makes sense. If I want to find what’s nearby or a specific business, I’ll ask for it…until then, make it clear that I can get more info but don’t clutter my interface until I say it’s okay. Google’s satellite views _added_ to the value of the page without getting in the way. In my mind, Yahoo’s map site doesn’t come close to the functionality of Google’s. I’ll go to Yahoo Maps if I want to demonstrate to someone what can be done with today’s technology. If I want to get somewhere, I’ll go to Google.


7 responses to “Yahoo Maps Beta vs. Google Maps”

  1. Google Maps will also let me type something like “Lake View 16428” and it will give me directions to Lake View Country Club (in the 16428 zip code). Yahoo directed me to the middle of the 16428 zip code.

  2. Totally agree with most of what you say… except for with traffic… by showing traffic everywhere it gives someone (like me) who may look to bounce around the route a little a better idea of where the traffic is… plus living in a heavy metro area I know that the 405 and I-5 interchange isbacked up, then it’s also going to be backed up to crap if I try to drive through Mill Creek.

    wow that was one big long sentence…

  3. Yahoo! does one thing far better than Google — it specifies numbered roads throughout the directions. Several times I’ve asked both for a route, and gotten a useless patchwork from Google. Here’s an example:

    WALDEN ST becomes CONCORD RD[RT-126] – go 5.7 mi
    Continue to follow RT-126 – go 1.1 mi
    Continue on COCHITUATE RD[RT-27] – go 1.2 mi
    Continue to follow RT-27 – go 6.9 mi

    Bear right at Concord Rd – go 5.7 mi
    Bear left at Cochituate Rd – go 2.3 mi
    Continue on Main St – go 1.1 mi
    Continue on N Main St – go 2.5 mi

    I don’t want to know every time the damn local street name changes when I cross a town border; the street names are never marked in Massachusetts anyway. Just tell me it’s Highway X, and I’m happy.

    Because of that one flaw, I consistently choose Yahoo! over Google, and will until the latter gets a clue about state highways.

  4. Was reading your Google vs Yahoo! piece and you mentioned Firefox which I also use. Wondering if you’ve tried the 1.5 beta yet? I haven’t.

  5. Rick, I tried it briefly on my Mac in an earlier version and had some trouble with it. I haven’t tried it on my PC because I rely heavily on extensions (Googlebar and Roboform in particular) that as far as I know haven’t been updated for 1.5 yet.

  6. before you rant, you might want to know what you are talking about… this IS Flash, not AJAX.

  7. Anonymous, I’m talking usability. I’m talking entirely from the end-user experience. I don’t care what technology went into a website…Flash, AJAX, Perl, PHP…it doesn’t matter. All I care about is the fact that I want to get from point A to point B and how the site makes that possible in a way that does it in the least annoying way. 😉