Bing Maps goes 'Metro', not everyone's happy

It’s not every day that someone makes a bold move in the world of user interfaces. Let’s face it; people like to resist change – have you seen how many “We want the old Facebook back” groups appear after every Facebook update? But as Microsoft’s revolutionary Ribbon UI proved when it launched in Office 2007, sometimes these changes are for the best and can make a user’s computing experience easier and more productive. Microsoft is hoping it’s on another winner with ‘Metro’ – entirely basing its new phone operating system on the ‘Metro’ UI principles.

A description of ‘Metro’ from the Windows Phone 7 / Metro Book.

Along with Windows Live Wave 4, Bing Maps have now gone ‘Metro’. Liveside describes the new look as “pretty”, praising its “lavender”-colored roads and “muted” look. But others, such as istartedsomething’s Long Zheng, have been far less impressed with the direction that Bing Maps has taken. His article’s title “Bing Maps looked ugly before, now looks like s***” clearly sums up his feelings towards the update. As above, Microsoft's own description states that ‘Metro’ is “modern and clean”. However, to Long and others, the following image is far from clean.

Bing Maps: Sydney

As many have complained, the new-look map is visually confusing (although readable), with overlapping names and muted tones. By further zooming into the area of interest, the map quickly becomes clearer.

Bing Maps: Sydney CBD

According to John O’Brien, Windows Live Services MVP and Liveside writer, a perk of the new map design is that it allows developers to create easy-to-see layers over the top of Bing Maps – a feat that’s always been hard with brightly-colored maps. As Microsoft is integrating Bing Maps into the heart of Windows Phone 7, this may be a wise move – allowing developers to design Bing Maps-based applications that neatly fit WP7’s UI. Microsoft has also been pushing the Bing Maps API for some time, yet many web developers still choose to use Google Maps.

Like it or hate it, only time will tell if the new look will drive more users and developers into the arms of Microsoft, or if it will send them back to Google.

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112 Comments

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I like it. I actually find it very usable and looks a lot fresher than other services. Varying sizes I find especially useful because it allows you to quickly determine the broad area that you're looking at.

lordcanti86 said,
Meh. I kinda preferred the old color scheme/layout. New one's alright. Bing Maps is still light years ahead of GMaps

In US maybe. In canada no Google Maps is light years ahead. Look at my posts above.

LaP said,

In US maybe. In canada no Google Maps is light years ahead. Look at my posts above.

You're bitching about missing building outlines? You're picking nits. I don't want to see outlines of buildings on a f*cking road map at that zoom level. If I want to see the shapes of the buildings, I'll zoom in further, and Bing will smoothly transition to Bird's Eye view and rotate the image to the angle of my choosing. Try doing that with Google. Google light year's ahead my ass!

bj55555 said,

You're bitching about missing building outlines? You're picking nits. I don't want to see outlines of buildings on a f*cking road map at that zoom level. If I want to see the shapes of the buildings, I'll zoom in further, and Bing will smoothly transition to Bird's Eye view and rotate the image to the angle of my choosing. Try doing that with Google. Google light year's ahead my ass!

wow

Just wow.

If for you missing roads, lakes, important buildings like a parliament and parks is not important i'm speechless. Really ...

LaP said,

wow

Just wow.

If for you missing roads, lakes, important buildings like a parliament and parks is not important i'm speechless. Really ...

Important buildings like what? Like the "Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec", which Google Maps can't even find correctly and recognizes as a completely separate location from the "National Museum of Fine Arts of Quebec"?

Kitty Karloso said,
If you go to the silverlight version (http://www.bing.com/maps/explore/) and select Dynamic from the list of map types it looks much better than the tile based version.

The Silverlight version is smooth as butter. It's an absolute joy to use. It's silly to complain about the typography because whatever your complaints are don't apply at any other zoom level. Bing maps are fluid, and any text that you zoom into transition into a lighter shade and become less and less obtrusive as more detail comes into focus. By comparison, Google Maps is clunky.

Looks awesome, performance are AMAZING! this is so fast that it seems as if the whole thing is stored on my PC, google maps and earth are not even close to the speed MS delivers their maps.

Beastage said,
Looks awesome, performance are AMAZING! this is so fast that it seems as if the whole thing is stored on my PC, google maps and earth are not even close to the speed MS delivers their maps.

Thats thanks to Silverlight.

Beastage said,
Looks awesome, performance are AMAZING! this is so fast that it seems as if the whole thing is stored on my PC, google maps and earth are not even close to the speed MS delivers their maps.
Really? I find Google Maps faster than both normal Bing and Silverlight Bing.

Not sure about the looks, maybe you could get used to it (then again Google maps doesn't seem to require any degree of eye training to make sense of maps at any level of zoom) but anyway at least in my area it's showing streets wrong. And I don't mean outdated, just plain wrong, like 90 degrees angles when the street is actually a big curve, and curves, when shown, are drawn as series of straight lines.

Then you switch to aerial or bird's eye view and it becomes a mess because nothing matches. At least when you get that kind of mismatches on Google it's because the satellite maps are outdated, but on Bing they aren't even getting the road maps right (and satellite shots are at least as old as Google's).

Also the signs showing street directions are a crappy choice, in my opinion. It's harder to tell on what direction you should drive, and zooming doesn't help because as you zoom in they seem to keep becoming smaller and smaller.

All in all, the current state of Bing maps isn't giving me any reason to use it over Google maps, and not just because of the Metro UI (which I might be able to get used to, but given the above shortcomings I won't even bother trying).

Looks complicated/busy in the screenshots but looking a map of my state/area it looks clean/decent. Think it just depends on the location?

I like the overall direction, but it needs some tweaking in how many street and city names appear at the different zoom levels, and the city names need to fade a little quicker...

Roads look a lot clearer on the maps. Using a lot of different colors is distracting especially on a heavily detailed map, so the Metro system switches it up to use much less colors. It actually works out much better that way. Don't mock it until you've taken a good look at it for a few minutes.

I like the change - oddly enough. Like it says in the article - it's readable. Those who are saying they can't read it - I can't see how you can't.

It looks usable too. I say - give it time and you'll find it's better.

The colors are depressing and don't present enough contrast. It's hard to tell highways from other roads because they are just slightly larger.

Other than that... it's usable.

The new design shows up much better on higher pixel-density screens. They really bring out the elegance in the text. Lower resolution screens and particularly poor quality screens seem to make it uglier.

I personally love what they have done. Gone the days of the boring white being replaced with a subtle gray. NICE!!!

The screens in the article are showing the new bing maps at its worst. I went over and checked it out and I think it actually is pretty well done. Like others have said, go check it out for yourself, as the screens in this article are quite biased.

This website shows the changes, comparing the old version to the new version: http://www.41latitude.com/post/897973389/bing-maps-redesign

He's got a few articles and from the articles it seems this new redesign really is so much better - it looks much cleaner to me. I have yet to try the maps out for myself though as I cannot get onto a decent Internet connection; maybe my opinion will change then, but I doubt it - I love this look from what I've seen.

This is just wrong. Beautifying something for the sake of it shouldn't be allowed. A map is a factual document and should be clear, concise and accurate. For that it needs contrasting colours and clear text. I need to be able to glance quickly at a map and get all the information I need. I shouldn't have to decipher the "language" used first. Microsoft are competing with Google maps, and decisions like this won't win many converts.

I think the problem is that people are looking at the screenshot....and the fact that the screenshot is in the Sydney. If you go to the site and pull up a US address, it looks very good. The main streets have a bigger font, and the side streets are clear. I used to dislike the Metro UI...but the more that I see it, the more I like it. It's different, and people are scared of change. Microsoft is developing a winner.

I don't care for Bing Maps since I use Google Maps, but wow, that FIRST image there with sans serif-only uppercase letters... Talk about tedious to read! The Metro guys need to realize why serif typefaces and mixed case letters were invented a few centuries ago!

Northgrove said,
I don't care for Bing Maps since I use Google Maps, but wow, that FIRST image there with sans serif-only uppercase letters... Talk about tedious to read! The Metro guys need to realize why serif typefaces and mixed case letters were invented a few centuries ago!

No, you need to realize why serif typefaces are avoided. Yes, they've been around for centuries, but their purpose isn't for the sake of readibility.

Honestly I don't mind the color scheme but with the text on that first image it's hard to read. The fonts in the second one need to be sized a little better to match the roads. I'm not sure if I like it yet, hopefully they can clean it up a bit.

I love it; it really looks modern and clean.
Compare the new version with the UK images right now (they still use the old design) -- its much more appealing to the eye and looks a lot more 21st century-ish.

At first glance it looks confusing. IMHO I think it takes a little bit of getting used to, but when you do, you can gather lots of information and can ignore what is white noise. It fits with the Metro design... Show what you need to see at the current level, and hint at more detail so the user knows intuitively how to get at that information. I like the colours in spite of what others think; when you zoom in and the noise is gone, it looks like a good palete that is kind to the eyes and not distracting.

satanist said,
Woah MS has gone retarded. "We call it metro because it's modern and clean" bhaha

It's called "Metro" because it's based on text and basic iconography. Just like what you would see walking through a metropolitan area. In WP7 the icons on the application bar are supposed to mimic the simple signs you would see.

maps are one of those things that dont need a new "modern style". they are made for utility, not art. any manual would be impossible to use if the instructions were made "pretty" via some "unique" calligraphic font

their entire Metro style is certainly "different" - so. much. ugly.

Leeoniya said,
maps are one of those things that dont need a new "modern style". they are made for utility, not art. any manual would be impossible to use if the instructions were made "pretty" via some "unique" calligraphic font

their entire Metro style is certainly "different" - so. much. ugly.


I disagree. Maps should be updated to look more pretty, if it works (in my opinion), and from what I've seen, it seems to work here.

Comparing the updating of map imagery to the updating of text-based instructions isn't the same and they shouldn't be compared as such, especially in reference to Metro because that uses clean fonts - Segeo.

I kind of like it...and the more I stare at the more it seems kind of nice. I've yet to use a web map where everything was perfectly readable, this included, but its at least an attempt to be different and try something else.

Using it and looking at a picture are two different stories. It's much easier after using it. I thought it looked kinda "eh" when I saw the picture, but as any RATIONAL person would do, is try it out and see how it fairs. It fairs pretty well.

I like it more than before. The old version was punishing to my eyeballs. Too many bright, offensive colors that clashed all over the screen. Now I can look at it and find what I want. I think it's a step in the right direction, though could perhaps use a few tweaks. I'm clearly in the moniority though.

There are times when I wonder if the people involved in projects like these actually use the interfaces they build.

This is one of those times.

BaikenGuro said,
There are times when I wonder if the people involved in projects like these actually use the interfaces they build.

This is one of those times.


Have you tried it out or just looked at screenshots?

Calum said,

Have you tried it out or just looked at screenshots?

I just did and I think the main issue is the colors they use. the streets are way too light etc. Other than that it looks alright

what you guys should do is go check it out for yourself. I was just looking over sydney through bing maps and its much easier to find what I want. the thing is, an image "out of context" doesn't tell the whole story and that's all you're looking at. go browse around the map and see how it feels, then make your own judgement.

ctrl_alt_delete said,
what you guys should do is go check it out for yourself. I was just looking over sydney through bing maps and its much easier to find what I want. the thing is, an image "out of context" doesn't tell the whole story and that's all you're looking at. go browse around the map and see how it feels, then make your own judgement.

I definately like what I see so far on the US maps.

Elliott said,
Bing Maps already looked pretty horrible. Now they look like complete ****. Metro FTW?

Yes, Metro FTW. This looks much cleaner and now I've had chance to check it out, it's a joy to use. I think people just need to try it for a bit and get used to it before they judge.

Calum said,

Yes, Metro FTW. This looks much cleaner and now I've had chance to check it out, it's a joy to use. I think people just need to try it for a bit and get used to it before they judge.
I have been using it. It has less information density than Google Maps and yet it's harder to interpret. The fonts, lack of contrast, and lack of strokes really make it look like a mish-mash even though it's very sparse on information.

I think they could do without the overlapping text, but other than that, looks very nice to me. Easy on the eyes, helps you find what you're looking for. Zoomed in it looks excellent.

Edit:
I just now checked it out on my home state of Ohio. Looks fine to me. Not congested at all, and I like how the city name fades as you zoom in. Gets a thumbs up from me.

The reason people on Facebook have complained is that the updates are never implemented well and have bugs which are never really addressed.

Metro looks like an experiment with font sizes, Im not liking its use on maps but in other places it cool.

So going by the content of your article, the "everyone" that you mention in its title is actually just one person, Long Zheng. Why is his opinion so important that it warrants a blog post about it?

jamiet said,
So going by the content of your article, the "everyone" that you mention in its title is actually just one person, Long Zheng. Why is his opinion so important that it warrants a blog post about it?

Your reading comprehension is lacking. The title says "not everyone is happy", which is correct.

roadwarrior said,

Your reading comprehension is lacking. The title says "not everyone is happy", which is correct.

Perhaps, but does it warrant another blog post telling people that someone has written a blog post saying they don't like something? No, in my opinion. If anyone gives a toss what Long Zheng says go over and read it on his blog - I don't want to read about it on Neowin. Opinions expressed on other blogs are not newsworthy.

I don't care about the UI to be honest. The goal of Bing right now should be to have detailed maps for other countries. Canadian version of Bing Maps is lackluster. Same great UI but maps with missing roads and lakes specially outside of big cities.

I'm on the internet, making a comment, therefore i don't like it because complaining is what we internet people do.

Ooh, and 'this looks totally crap'

crashguy said,
I'm on the internet, making a comment, therefore i don't like it because complaining is what we internet people do.

<PretendFacebookLike>Heh heh, like it.</PretendFacebookLike>

Actually, many developers that have to pay to use mapping solutions choose bing maps from my experience. There are many reasons, but the biggest are that it costs half as much as google maps, it has a really clean API, and it actually gets most directions and streets correct which is key when dealing with maps.

Wow everyone seems to be slapping MS in the face over this - just because it isn't a Google maps clone (if it was, everyone would slap MS again for cloning it) does not mean that it sucks. Hell, it is 100x easier on the eyes. It may not have as much detail as Google Maps, but it does have its merits.

Conjor said,
Wow everyone seems to be slapping MS in the face over this - just because it isn't a Google maps clone (if it was, everyone would slap MS again for cloning it) does not mean that it sucks. Hell, it is 100x easier on the eyes. It may not have as much detail as Google Maps, but it does have its merits.

I believe it has the information which is useful

what said,
My god. Who on earth thought that was a good idea?

People who would like clarity when searching for maps? I don't see how I'm losing out on any information with the changes they've made - I can still find what I'd like to find, it's just much cleaner and nicer to look at. So, who on Earth thought this was a good idea? A genius, perhaps?

Calum said,

People who would like clarity when searching for maps? I don't see how I'm losing out on any information with the changes they've made - I can still find what I'd like to find, it's just much cleaner and nicer to look at. So, who on Earth thought this was a good idea? A genius, perhaps?

Or maybe just someone who believes in form over function.

Calum said,

People who would like clarity when searching for maps? I don't see how I'm losing out on any information with the changes they've made - I can still find what I'd like to find, it's just much cleaner and nicer to look at. So, who on Earth thought this was a good idea? A genius, perhaps?

Clarity?! It makes everything less clean and harder to use.

Thankfully the UK at the moment has the same old colour scheme while the rest of europe seems to have changed.

In my opinion google has it's colours spot on, you can easily see the differance between the classification of roads and the level of detail for each zoom is perfect. Vs Bing maps in paris for example it's deffnetly not as clear.

Ryoken said,
The idea is good, but the implementation to me shows it doesn't work as well
Actually this looks way better than before. The idea behind this is great. Granted some of the lighter colors are very badly used in the maps, but they are on the right track. Readability is also better.

How many of you complainers actually tried the new Bing maps before posting? I can see that the pic used in the article looks extremely ugly. It makes you want to not use Bing maps at all.

Jebadiah said,
Actually this looks way better than before. The idea behind this is great. Granted some of the lighter colors are very badly used in the maps, but they are on the right track. Readability is also better.

How many of you complainers actually tried the new Bing maps before posting? I can see that the pic used in the article looks extremely ugly. It makes you want to not use Bing maps at all.

I tried using Bing maps a day or two ago (After having switched to using Bing maps almost exclusively), and found it to be VERY confusing to read. I actually had to go back to Google Maps (Which I NEVER thought would ever happen...)... To each their own, but to me, it was horrible. At the time, I didn't know what was different...

Jan said,
Too complicated and distracting.

They might improve it after they get some sorta feedback from the users. But one tends to wonder, with sooooo many employees.. theres gotta be a few just like us who thinks this first rollout looks a mess!