Apple Maps

Apple Maps Case Study

Project Type   Case Study
Skills / Tools    Figma, Photoshop, Interface Design, User Testing


In the Usability & Information Architecture course at UCSD, we were asked to evaluate and redesign an important component of an application we use in our everyday lives. For our project we chose to redesign Apple Maps.

The Problem

After completing a search in Apple Maps, there is no way to refine your search whether it is filtering, or typing in a new location.

The Goal

Our objective was to redesign the post-search screen in order to allow users to filter, search, and refine their results while keeping everything familiar.

My Role

I assisted with user research, prototyping, and analysis.

The Process


Identifying the problem

In order to find a component that needed a redesign, we needed to interview users and identify certain issues. For our user selection, we targetted individuals who have an Iphone and use Apple Maps as thier primary app for directions/discovery. To approach the redesign process we kept these 3 questions in mind:
1) How often do you use Apple Maps and for what reasons?
2) How reliable would you rate the instructions given on Apple Maps?
3) Describe the process for setting up directions for navigation? How long does it take you?

Key Findings

The good

Robust, diverse, and efficient. Apple Maps doesn’t just focus on navigational services but also implements other built-in features such as Yelp Reviews, Wikipedia, and basic information about locations to provide the user helpful or important information before the user decides whether or not they would like to travel to their selected location. In addition, upon selecting a location, users found it easy to set up directions to their desried location, as each location card provides a large option at the top of the card to select “Directions”.

The not-so-good

Users encountered difficulty and frustration with Apple Maps when interacting with the built-in search feature. For example, User 1 was confused as to why the search bar disappears when viewing specific locations, and that he must return back to the home search page to generate a new search. This current design creates an extra step for the user and can be very repetitive if the user is navigating through multiple locations. The next big usability problem revolved around the presentation of the results after searching. Users 2 & 3 were frustrated about the order that results were listed in upon searching. First and foremost, the search tool does not list results in order of proximity from the user. This forces users to spend more time navigating through the search results to determine which locations are the closest to their current position. Secondly, the current Apple Maps search engine does not include the features to sort or filter the search results. This forces users to scroll through the generated results, which can waste a lot of time.

Component for redesign

With the usability errors identified through user testing, we narrowed down many of the pain points, specifically, the lack of features for filtering + sorting results, and the accessibility of the search bar when navigating through the application. Below are some examples of the problems that users encountered when using the search engine when completing our set of tasks:


Competitive analysis

After identifying our problem, we looked at Apple's biggest competitors in order to understand their approach to filtering and sorting in a mobile map application.



After brainstorming and sketching, we created two prototypes with our proposed solutions.

Prototype A
We give users the luxury of clicking ‘Mark Location’ if they feel that it’s necessary to Mark a Location, reducing the chance of an accidental click. The search bar will stay and not disappear as a search is made.
This option gives users the ability to find places within and around their setting.
If Users would like to get directions to a place they need then they have the option of inputing their set directions.
This dropdown menu give users more options to filter and enhance their searches.
Prototype B
Users now have the option to filter results or quickly change the sorting of results.
Users can sort the result list so the highest rated locations appear first.
Users can sort the result list by locations with the most Yelp reviews.
Users can sort the result list by locations closest to them.
When filtering results, users have the choice to filter by price range, distance, whether or not the location is open, and/or if it’s a new location.


User testing

For Prototype A, we asked users to search for coffee places, as well as open the settings and Get Directions tabs.For Prototype B, we asked users to search for coffee shops nearby, add a filter for the least expensive ones, and sort them by rating and by distance. By doing these tests, we could find out which proposed solution is easier to navigate, depending how quickly and seamlessly the users can complete the tasks. They would also highlight which design is more powerful by getting feedback on how in control and comfortable the users felt during the test.

Prototype A

+ Positives

1. User liked that he always has access to the search bar.

2. User felt like the top search tool helped minimize the number of “clicks” needed to complete the task.

3. Menu dropdown was much easier to distinguish settings & options rather than the ‘i’ button in original design.

4. Clicking on marked locations/pinning button lessened usability problems from original design, no more unwanted pins from user holding on screen too long.

- Negatives

1. Tough for user with small hands to reach top of phone screen to access the search tool.

2. User was slightly confused by the difference between “Get Directions” and searching using the search bar.

3. User described how tacky the design was for the top buttons and found it cluttered.

4. The user described how time consuming it is just to change metrics and show traffic when navigating. These options also had bad placement and should’ve been placed in ‘get-directions’ section.

EX) Menu drop down -> Settings -> Show Traffic & Metrics.

Prototype B

+ Positives

1. User liked how the sorting placed the best choices for his situation at the top.

2. The User found the “Distance” filter most useful for the task, and can also see themselves using the “Rating” filter in the future.

3. The “Filter” allowed the User to narrow down their search so they weren’t overwhelmed by the amount of search results.

4. The User found it convienent that he could swipe up to view more options after he selected a sorting option. The experience didnt feel too unfamiliar.

- Negatives

1. User did not like the slider for filtering by distance.

2. User found the top filters enough for their search and didn’t need to use the “Filter” button.

3.  The User didn't notice the “Filter” option until they were prompted to use it by the interviewer.

4.  The User didn't find the sort by “Most Reviewed” to be very helpful.

Final Analysis

Prototype A

In our redesign for prototype A we focused on adding a search bar and extra functions displayed at all times on the very top of Apple Maps. This slated redesign can be rationalized because in the original design of Apple Maps a search bar was only present when making a first search, to make another search users had to exit out of a search card to regain access to a search bar. We also included extra icons & buttons to go along with the search bar because we felt it would help user usability by speeding up the process of searching/finding directions, the original Apple Maps design was too sophisticated and very minimalist to say the least especially for new users or users that don’t use this service regularly.

Our predictions for Prototype A for the most part illustrated how much better the function of a search bar made user usability much more efficient! Instead of having to exit out of a search card just to regain access to another search bar the new redesign was implemented to fix this particular nuance.

Another issue that we predicted to help Apple Maps with efficiency and better usability was to create a button that enable users access to place/set pins & markers of their locations. The original design of Apple maps had this feature but always caused irritability and problems because this feature would enable itself if users just left their thumb on the map for too long, sometimes pins/markers would also be placed when users just sifted through the maps as well.

In spite of the good that we predicted there were some features that didn’t go as planned which would be the unnecessary features of buttons like ‘Find Places’ & ‘Get Directions’. Users found this confusing and insisted that these are likely the entail the same meaning. Our users had also deemed that these buttons had poor placement which resulted in visually unappealing, too small, and cluttered.

Prototype B

For Prototype B, a different pain point was focused on. With this design, the lack of search tools was addressed by adding “Filter” and sorting options after the user generates a search. In addition, the search bar to generate a new search is still easily accessible by including this at the top of the list of results. This will assist in decreasing the amount of navigation the user will have to engage in when browsing their options. This was also kept in mind when adding in the sorting and filtering features. For sorting, the user will not be directed to another screen, and instead, will simply need to click their sorting option at the top of the generated search list. For filtering, the user will be directed to a small popup screen to select their desired filtering option. We decided upon adding this to a different screen to decrease the amount of noise found on the search card, while also maximizing the filtering options for users. These added features should increase efficiency for users when searching for set locations to navigate to.

As we also predicted for Prototype B, maintaining the search bar in the screen made usability more efficient and made the user feel more comfortable. The user felt in control using the app and did not have to make extra clicks or wonder how to navigate back to the search bar.

We predicted that adding an option for the user to filter their search would increase the specificity of the search and therefore create a results list that does not overwhelm the user. We found that adding filters helps the user see only the results that are helpful to them, which made the user very happy. We came to find out that the downside to this filter option was that it was easy to miss for users who did not know it was there. If we were to update this design, we would make this button more noticeable.

Based on our preliminary user tests, we predicted that adding sorting options would make the search results more specific to the user’s needs. We learned that the users found this feature very helpful when they were looking for something nearby or with a really good review. One thing we would change would be the sorting titles because users found “Rating” and “Most Reviewed” a little redundant.


After extensive thought, planning, and testing, as a team we found Prototype B to be more effective. This design was familiar to the user as it maintained the applications previous style and its key components were kept relatively similar. Overall, it delivered the most efficiency, usability, and control. The sorting options were well received and deemed to be very useful. If a couple of tweaks are made to the sorting categories and the filter slider, we feel this design will be a great improvement to the current Apple Maps design and should be implemented.


-     Even just a small component of a design can have a considerable effect on the user experience.

- This case study taught me how to work within the constraints of an existing product. We had to design within an existing system, and rely on already present design patterns. Since users are already familiar with these components and conventions, altering them could hurt usability.

-      Breaking down one aspect of a design can greatly help with creating solutions. Using multiple approaches to solving a usability error can dramatically improve your final result.

Let me know if you are interested in collaborating!