Some Great Innovators 2013 #2
from 100 Greatest Innovators, Fast Company ‘Zine 6/13 enhanced by Peter/CXO Wiz4biz
GOOGLE MAPS Director for Mobile, Daniel Graf
Beating Apple On Its Own Turf After Apple booted Google Maps from iOS last year, Daniel Graf led the development of a beautiful, refreshed mapping experience that shot to #1 in the iTunes store and kicked Apple’s ass on its own turf. Here’s how Graf made it happen–in his own words.
Forget The Easy Way Out While Google is a big company, there’s still a lot of “entrepreneurial spirit” behind it. We started with the new iOS app last year, and I got the ownership. I was responsible for the whole thing – from the engineering side, product side, & design side. My previous startup, Kyte, was one of the first companies dealing with video streaming – back when it was really hard to do on the Smart-phone. When I came to Google, I was director of the Google Mobile Apps Lab, this incubator is where we developed this mobile-first approach that is applied across the company now. So while I had no experience with maps, I’ve always been focused on creating simple experiences.
Android version of Google Maps, was very successful, so the easiest thing to do was to say, this is super-successful, users love it, so why don’t we just port it over to iOS? But I wanted to challenge the team. While the Android version is a great product, you can also tell it’s been around for a while. You have to access everything via menus–it’s not really best-use-case driven anymore. I said, let’s take a step back–what if we could start from scratch and forget anything we’ve ever done? We have the foundation–the Google data, the mapping data, the local business data, the imagery, the navigation algorithms–it’s a dream to start with.
Google’s New Direction When Larry Page, (CEO) got more involve in the operations of Google – a couple of years ago – he made it clear that for him, it’s not just about having a functional product. It also has to be beautiful, very useful, & an amazing experience. You’ve seen this on the desktop for the last three years, and now on mobile. Google has had this trend of questioning your User Experience more all the time. And we said to ourselves, if we’re going to invest that much in creating a new experience here, it needs to be the best ever created.
We had Design Reviews every single day – seemingly – down to the pixel. Everyone in the room, from the Product team to the Design team, would discuss features. At first you might think, “What a waste of time”. But that hour a day is the reason why, when you read the reviews and use it yourself, the product seems so polished. Three years ago, Google wouldn’t have done products like this, but they’ve created, such a seamless, integrated user interface. And lately, we’ve had several products like this, right? Gmail looks really nice on iOS. So does Google+, and now Maps. There’s a theme there. It’s an integrated experience.
(Google Maps continued in next Premium Content + App Guys)