App Design • 2/2018

"Where to next?"

I love to travel. I love experiencing new cultures, trying new foods (although I am admittedly pretty picky), traversing new landscapes, and taking photos. Last year, I went to a bunch of places around the world with a close friend of mine. Since they were “see stuff and do stuff” trips, we had to do a lot of planning and coordinating. In the early stages of our planning and after finally settling on a location, we did more refined research and made note of any activity or location that struck our interest: restaurants, famous landmarks, anywhere photogenic, etc. It’s important to know where things are in relation to each other, so I looked for a collaborative way to plot each location.

... and I couldn’t really find what I was looking for. was the first tool I came across. It was useful for plotting, but very lacking when it came to additional functionality. I wasn’t able to allow another person to edit my map and the website wasn’t even responsive. Google Maps has a custom mapmaker tool and you’re even able to invite others to participate. It too wasn’t quite what I was looking for: the feature was seemingly tucked away in a corner, kind of clunky, and only fully usable in a desktop browser. You have the ability to view your custom maps using the Google Maps app on your phone, but that's it.

We used Airbnb a lot on our trips. It was really useful to be able to save a home to a shared board and vote on each one. Unfortunately, in order to keep our thoughts cohesive and in one place, we had to make a Google doc where we listed the saved Airbnbs and noted/commented on the pros and cons of each one (location, view, amenities, price, etc.).

So I got to thinking. It would be awesome if there was a truly collaborative mapmaking app. One where people can begin planning a quick trip or a distant vacation, color code pins, and comment/vote on locations. Enter Carto - “cartography” being the art of map making. (Okay, so there’s technically already a company called Carto, but bear with me here.)

Preposed Persona

Chris is a 26 year-old data-scientist who was born and raised in Seattle. He absolutely loves to travel. Whether it's soloing a new hiking spot a few cities over or wandering through a tiny city in Hungary with his fiancé, it doesn't matter. He doesn't bother with pre-made trip itineraries; he always starts planning his trips from scratch. Chris is looking for a conveint way to plan future excursions with friends. Since he's no stranger to technology, he's always on the lookout for a new website or app to help make his life easier. He also likes to wear his hats backwards as he watches the setting sun.

Carto's colors are inspired by the retro theme from the Google Maps API styling wizard tool. Colorful pins on the vintage map make the app really calming and pleasent to use.

Powered by the Google Maps API, you can search for locations by keywords or find specific places by entering a direct address. After your selection, you’re able to customize the location’s name, address (in case the pre-populated address isn’t quite accurate), and select a custom tag. After completion, the new location is now visible to other members in the group.

"My Maps" has two views: list and ... map. In the list view, you’re able to quickly browse the locations and their addresses, give them a thumbs up/down, and view the comments and chosen tag. In the map view, you’re able to view all of your pins on a map in relation to each other. When pins are very close to other pins, they are automatically clumped together and replaced by a numbered pin. I wanted to make sure people were able to tap on locations confidently without the need to zoom in via pinching. Tapping on a pin will bring you to an expanded view where, again, you're able to view the address, vote, and view the location's tag and comments.

After further selecting a location, you are now able to quickly edit the location, get directions, view any associated images from Google Maps, and view the pin in its locational context.

With notifications turned on, you will be notified whenever someone leaves a comment on a location or adds a location to a map.


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