a solo project
My Role                        User Research and Synthesis, Storyboarding, Interaction Design
Duration                    7 weeks, May 21st – June 30th, 2022


Wandering is a build-in feature designed for Google maps. It enhance users’ walking experience by planning routes based on users’ preferences.

Initial Idea

The walking routes offered by Google Maps sometimes fail users due to its focus on efficiency. While, sometimes users expect better walking experience with scenic views, lovely store, greenery, quiet side streets, etc.

     Why Google Maps?

mobile audience reach smartphone app in the US, 2022
of all smartphone users‘ choice in the US
the most popular mobile map in the US
downloads in 2021 in the US
Google Maps has 154.4 million monthly users, which is more than the combination of Waze (25.6 million) and Apple Maps’ (23.3 million)  users. (iMapping)

Background Research

The background research was based on both primary and secondary research.


The demands of walking thus is increasing.(Google Trends)
My secondary research started with finding out wether people are enjoy walking or not. I searched “walking trails near me” in Google Trends to see people’s inclination on walking.


Users wanted to let maps know that they don’t care about walking greater distances. 
I looked through Google Maps’s community forums to understand users’ experience about the current route planning service offered by Google Maps. I found out that there are users who now claiming the current route planning service is “not good enough”.


Walkability is a metrics to measure users’ walking experience. However, the current route planning service on Google maps does not take walkability into account.
Walkability refers to to “The extent to which the built environment is friendly to the presence of people living, shopping, visiting, enjoying or spending time in an area.”(Burden, 2010). 


Larger the cities, higher the walkability, and greater the chance for people to spend extra time on/energy on walking.
My primary research is conducted as interviews with random people online. Some of them are from larger cities, while some of them from smaller cities. It turned out that people in larger cities will like to walk more for better experience when they have time, and there are multiple reasons to it: to relax, to work out, to explore the environments, or simply killing time, etc. However, concerns such as heavy traffic, noise, safety, getting lost, deviating from planned destination, etc. fail their expectations.

Problem Space

Walkability is not evenly distributed, so users may run into areas with low walkability hence ruin their experience.


What does walkability means to users, and how it is affecting users experience?


How might we apply users’ preference to increase walkability on planned routes and meanwhile send them to their destinations within reasonable time?

User Research

I conducted the user research through 5 interviews with interviewees who I spoke to in the background research. I gained a fundamental qualitative knowledge including issues such as:
  • What situations are considered walkable/unwalkable?
  • How they conduct walkable experience in their daily life?
  • How unexpected/low walkability experience come across to walkers when they are expecting a highly walkable experience ?

Interview Glimpse



Users seek for better walking experiences when they have time/the whether/mood are good; when users are traveling.


High walkability ≠ the most efficient route; Good experience=high walkability+efficiency.


Walkable experience seeking often tend to be a side goal to a main goal, such as explore a new commute route.


Visualizing experience(e.g. parks as green color blocks) is promising to users.

Elements Effect Walking Experience

Different Scenarios/Design Context

Users’ Expectations
  • reasonable duration/distance
  • safety/eyes on streets 
  • public transportations in case users want to stop walking (bus/bike/metro)
  • parks/stores/allies/sth uncommon/street performances…
  • Too many people
  • narrow pedestrians
  • busy traffic
  • roadblocks
  • too much sun
Along with these insights, I also discovered that there are 3 main scenarios when user want to take a walk around.

Going broad with ideas

The main goal is to present the unfamiliar/unknown situations to users, so they can be aware of what on their wayto make experience predictable. I came up with multiple ideas to achieve this goal.



In an ideal situation, users should follow the framework below:

How users can use the feature to meet their goal:

Scenario 1:

Luci has just arrived at her hotel, and she wants to explore the surroundings by walking.
She opened Google Maps and clicked on “Walk me around”.
After few clicks, Google Maps planned a walking route to show her around.

Scenario 2:

Luci’s ready for some refreshing after a long day, and she doesn’t want walk home via her daily commute routes.
She opened Google Maps and entered her destination. Right next to walking, she choose to go home in wandering mode.
Walking along the planned route, she found her favorite artist’s work appeared on a plaza near her home.

Narrowing down with Usability Tests

With  quick user tests with high fidelity prototype, I got some very insightful feedback from the user to improve my design.  4 users joined the user test, and they were asked to perform the tasks  under scenario A and B.


You just arrived hotel, and start planning to get yourself familiarize with surrounding by walking.


You are planning to go home with a new commute route out of curiousity.
  • The use of different colors from the existing Google Maps‘ route color is a bit confusing.
  • The action button is difficult to find on the explore page.
  • The Returning option in “Customize your routes” doesn’t seem to correspond to user habit.

Iterations after User Test

Final Deliverable-Hi-Fi Prototype

Customize Route

Under the scenario that users do not have a known destination, the action button is placed on the home/explore page.
Sometimes, users may not have too many preferences, so they can just slide the expected walking duration. By clicking on “Surprise me!”, Google Maps can provide routes by default. 

Explore Nearby Events

Nearby events will appear on the map when users use the “Walk me around feature”,so users can check info if they are interested to attend. 

Preview what’s on route

Visualize the spots that might offer better walking experience on routes, let users know what to be expected.

Better experience and less time

Wandering mode plans routes that combine different traveling methods, so users can reach their destination within shorter time but enhanced experience.

Further Thoughts


Based on the exploration on route planning and previewing what’s on route within this project, I found a further development can be worked on is to connect  the business info that Google Maps now provides with route planning and preview. For example, grocery store’s promotion info can be added to users’ commute route, and it will benefit users and business owner both


The wandering feature can enhance the socialization side of Google Maps, users can view, comment, like and collect routes rated by others.


Google Maps now offer users with service called Google My Maps which allow them to create their own maps by drawing lines on map, but this service only available on desktop. I think the approach of drawing routes may be a good fit for the service to be implemented on mobile devices.