26 July 2008

Google Maps beats online Yellow Pages hands down

The Yellow Pages is just one example of a slow moving dinosaur facing extinction because of its failure to adapt to change. While its end might be inevitable, the current design of their website and the search algorithms employed to generate the results will hasten the decline of its use.

In the past I always tried the online Yellow Pages from my mobile first when I'm on the go, only to be left frustrated by all the unnecessary navigation and confusing results that are full of duplicates. Mobile Google Maps, on the other hand, usually gave me the names and locations of the businesses I was seeking effortlessly, and when it didn't, it was because Google's data was not as up to date as that of the Yellow Pages.

Suppose you were looking for a print shop in the Perth CBD, which has a post code of 6000. A map with the contact details of all the relevant businesses in the area is returned instantly after hitting the search button.

When the same search is entered into the Yellow Pages, the user is swamped with a plethora of categories, including Leasing Services &/or Consultants and Video & DVD Production &/or Duplicating Services. It is quite unnecessary to list every conceivable category that can be linked to the keyword in the most obscure of ways. If the user was looking for cheque printing, they can narrow the search by simply entering "cheque printing".

In analysing the requirements of a piece of software, engineers should strive for the least number of features that offer the most functionality. Unfortunately, they tend to give us the most number of features with the least amount of functionality, which benefits neither the customer nor the software maker. The former, however, is actually more difficult and requires more thought.

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