Add voice guidance feature to MapQuest 4 Mobile iPhone to attract new users and at the same time does not require a steep learning curve for current users.


The project’s majority of development resources were designated to do text-to-speech research and bug fixing, so the design must have minimal change on the UI.


Findings and Project Scope

From the initial research and competitive analysis between TomTom, Garmin, Navigon and Google Map on Android, I found out that all navigation application have a very similar pattern and interfaces.

  • The classic navigation app such as TomTom, Garmin and Navigon, they all require accurate data entry, with dedicated street number, address, city, state and ZIP. Only MapQuest 4 Mobile and Google app for Android allow users to enter location information with a single field.
  • They all require user to push the “Start” button to initiate the voice guidance
  • They have compass to tell users which direction they are going
  • The map rotates anchored with the direction icon
  • The app displays the next maneuver symbol and the remaining distance until the next maneuver
  • The app displays current and upcoming street names and it advances automatically
  • The app generates route optimized for traffic in real time

Since the goal is not to compete directly with the competitors listed above, plus with the limited resources available, both time and financial wise, the project scope was updated to the following:

  • The map can move up, down, left and right but it should not rotate.
  • Display static North indicator on the screen
  • Basic voice guidance using pre-recorded voice and open source TTS
  • Provide off-route alert and recalculate route to help user gets back on the route
  • Off-route feature should be flexible and adapt to user’s decision
  • User should still be able to use the Business Locator carousel in voice guidance mode

The Start Button

The placement of the Start button is very straightforward. Placed with other Directions controls with a different color (green among grey colored buttons), making it stand out and easy to be found. This placement is consistent between Map and List view – giving users flexibility to start the voice guidance from either views.

Informational Icons/Indicators

Having an indicator of where North is and a compass to let users know where they’re heading are important information to have. In addition, since MapQuest 4 Mobile allow users to get driving or walking directions, it is also important to have a visual that indicates which mode user is in (walking vs driving).

“You are Off-Route!”

From my own experience and others’ in the team, we don’t like how the off-route feature works in other navigation apps. It keeps dictating users to take a maneuver to get back on the original route and the alerts won’t stop until users finally give in and take the suggested maneuver or the route generator can generate a new route.

Since MapQuest is limited with providing the ability to generate route and optimize it for the most recent traffic condition, it has become more important to design the off-route feature to be able to handle the following situations:

  • When user is off route, display an alert with options to reroute or stay on this route.
  • When user opts to stay on his new route, display a message to tell the user that voice guidance will resume when he is back on the route. An off-route icon should appear on the map.
  • When user opts for a reroute, immediately the app generates a new route based on user’s current location.

The Result

With these features, MapQuest 4 Mobile has successfully improved the driving experience of its millions of users. The application has become completely hands free and it provides guidance to get you to your destination safe and sound. After the launch of voice guidance feature, MapQuest 4 Mobile popularity increased and pushed the application to the #1 position in top downloadable for free navigation app. Users are excited with the voice guidance and reroute features addition and the fact that there’s minimal to no learning curve.