#BerlinMapsters – a Nokia Maps feedback workshop

| June 1, 2011 | 19 Replies

A diverse group of bloggers from all around the world, including Canada, USA, UK and India – were invited to fly to Germany to meet the team behind Nokia Ovi Maps – in my opinion, the most popular service on Nokia phones.

Needless to say, I was blown away when I learned that I was invited, but the flight disruptions because of one pesky volcano kept us on the edge and guessing until the very last moment. Luckily enough, everyone – we named ourselves Berlin Mapsters – arrived safely and on schedule, although Micky (@MickyFin) missed almost all of his luggage until it was found a day later.

The Ovi Maps workshop was held on the 26th of May in Nokia office (Schonhauser Allee 180). The day turned out to be quite busy, with the workshop being split in sessions and focusing on different tasks, all the while various people responsible for Ovi Maps came in to listen to our feedback and answer any related questions. We started the morning session with Nokia Check-in:

Give feedback to the Check in flow as it is, especially regarding the things you love and hate most

The task was quite straightforward for everyone who used the Check-in at least once. We put memos to the wall with our rants, suggestions or praises next to the screens from the app. Many of us, understandably, tried to critically compare it to Foursquare, but an overwhelming majority of us thought that Check-in should simply focus on combining all the social networking aspects in a single place as a built-in solution, rather than trying to recreate the same functionality.

If you could create your perfect Check in flow – how would you get there? What would we do? Where would you end up?

Here we split in groups of 3-4 people and brainstormed on paper our perfect Check in flow. Many of us suggested a Check-in widget and using drawings to illustrate some of the suggestions.

Nokiafish: Think of the babelfish of Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide. Imagine you could invent a fish that always tell you about the area you’re in. What would it be able to tell you?

Nokiafish – this was a more general question where we could let our imaginations run wild. I was thinking ‘parking place’ or ‘historical landmarks’ amongst other, more ambitious ones. What are the first few things that pop into your mind?

The “explore and discover” session was the most in-depth part of the workshop, and again we joined forces in different groups to collectively come up with some interesting, fresh ideas.

The main theme of the first half of this session was discovery, and was more like a warm-up to get us in the right mind-set. We all had different stories to tell, but patterns can be found that are fairly similar:

Take a few seconds to think about one of your favourite places. It could be a bar, a restaurant, a hidden path by the sea or a little park… any kind of place. Can you remember how you first discovered it? Please tell us your story.

Steering questions

•Can you recall what you were doing when you first heard of or came across that place?
•Were you on your own or accompanied?
•What was your feeling when you discovered it?
•What questions came into your mind (if any)?
•What information (if relevant) did you seek about that place?
•What did you then do?
•What made it a “discovery” as such?
The second part, as you might have guessed, was aimed mostly at exploration. I felt this part of the session was more thought provoking, engaging. I recall coming up with a drawing of augmented reality glasses (in regards to the 4th question), only to get frowned looks from the peeps who aren’t wearing glasses ‘by default’. Go figure.

Imagine you are planning on going on holiday to a place you have never been before. You know you will be there for a few days and you would like to know where to go and what to do.

1) What would you do to get some ideas?

2) What would you actually search for and how would you get this information?

3) Would you like to get specific recommendations and if so, what kind of? What would you like those recommendations to be based on?

4) If you had access to a great tool (search engine, application, idea generator, anything!) that could help you find what to do and where to go, what would you like it to do and what would be the key features / characteristics of that tool? Don’t hesitate to “go crazy” and express ideas even if they seem strange or impossible to do!

Towards the end of the workshop we had a demonstration of Ovi Maps 3D. The cities was saw looked truly immersive, and we were told snapping the whole city on a plane and process the data only takes a few days. More cities will be added, but no word as to which cities or when we’ll see this kind of 3D Maps on our Nokia phones. Naturally, a lot of comparisons (and criticism) was aimed at Google Maps approach to making 3D cities.

We wrapped up the final part of the workshop nicely with a short brainstorming session about what we would like to see in Ovi Maps 3D in the future. I had no particular gripes with the UI, but my suggestion was to add a ‘layer’ of interactivity so we could more with the map, like select individual buildings and read useful info about it, perhaps even able to zoom inside and explore the interior. In short, try and capitalize on the added dimension without sophisticating the actual use of maps.

So it was quite a busy day for us #Berlinmapsters, and the workshop concluded with a definitive feeling of accomplishment. If somebody asked me to sum up Nokia Maps workshop in a few words, I’d say it was a productive, and top of all, fun experience. The team behind Nokia maps we met there seemed genuinely interested in hearing our thoughts and suggestions, both negative and positive. And to me, this marks a sense of much needed change in attitude in Nokia.

A change of attitude from ‘we know better’ to ‘what do you think?’ , and the kind of probing questions we received in the workshop leads me to believe Nokia really wants to grow its key services in the right direction, according to user needs. But I hope this wasn’t just an isolated case. I truly wish that we see more of similar type of workshops in the near future, where users can give feedback directly to the people working on Nokia services, perhaps even products, so in the end, both Nokia and it’s consumers can come out as winners.

Now, together I believe we can still do a bit of help in improving the Ovi Maps. To keep things simple, I’ll give you just two questions, and the most interesting answers I spot in the comments section – the ones we haven’t thought of at the Berlin workshop – I will forward directly on to Nokia (thanks!):

1. Ovi Maps Check-in: your rants and suggestions?

2. What are the things you want to know when visiting an area you have never been before?


P.S. A big thanks goes to Surya (Ovi Community Manager, @suryasnair) for organizing the Berlin workshop and having a bunch of us mobile geeks there – it was a blast!!


Category: Nokia, Symbian, Symbian^3

About the Author ()

I'm Journalism and English student with a passion for mobile phones and the industry.
  • SGean

    OVI checkins just isn’t that useful. You can’t tag friends in it and when you click on the link on it from facebook it takes so long to load as compared to the default facebook places.

    • That’s why we should give feedback to make Ovi check-in better, more useful for us 😉

    • Doug

      Agreed. It’s gotta be as good as Facebook’s check in for Android, iPhone, and BB.

  • Nilux

    I want a “where are my friends” button in Ovi maps 3d

  • Fantastic write up and, if it was even possible, I’m now even more envious that I didn’t get to go!

    Damn! 🙂

    Additions? I’d like to see the photo upload in Ovi Check in integrated with the Foursquare API. Currently images to go to 4sq and they should! Tagging friends also, that’d be awesome… (as per FB).

    When I’m visiting a place I haven’t visited before I often check 4sq tips as sometimes the information that I want might not be the information that I need. 4sq tips can be a great source of exciting knowledge in that area.

    • Thanks James! I’m not much of a 4sq user and use it only occasionally to let my friends quickly know my whereabouts, but the 4sq tips does sound like a really useful thing to have. Perhaps a widget would be very useful that would show those 4sq tips directly on the phone’s homescreen…

      If Ovi Check-in would rally all of the related social networks in a single, easy to access, place as an already built-in package in Nokia phones, then I’m sure users would stick to using it instead of having to install 4-5 separate apps to do job. Of course, it all comes down to the quality of execution.

  • Ninja

    Great to see you helping Microsoft with their new acquisition 😉

    Seriously if you have a line of communication open to the Maps guys then please tell them to improve the routing algorithm in Drive. I still feel like I can’t trust it not to take me a stupid over long annoying route unlike my old TomTom which I really felt I could trust.

  • trashr0x

    Well, what bugs me about Check-In are 2 things:

    1) You should be able to check in friends as well.

    2) The syntax “Slacking at Big Ben Clock, London, United Kingdom” is just too unintuitive. The syntax should be “Slacking at Big Ben Clock” where ‘Big Ben Clock’ (i.e. the actual place) is highlighted and when you click on it it redirects you to a pinpointed location on the map. That makes it so much more intuitive and easier to read.

    So combining 1) and 2):

    Check-in syntax:
    ” at with , , .. and “.

    My two cents

  • trashr0x

    Lol, brackets are not recognised so reposting the last part:

    So combining 1) and 2):

    Check-in syntax:

    “[Whatever you’re doing] at [Place only, Not All the Information, When Clicked Redirects to pin-point location on Maps] with [Friend #1], [Friend #2], .. and [Friend #n]”

  • Jen

    Thanks for the writeup Sergejs 🙂 glad you enjoyed the workshop! Your feedback and ideas were incredibly valuable to us so I’m glad that came across.

    Thanks everyone also for the additional comments and suggestions for Check in. Duly noted (and agreed)!

    @trashr0x I feel your pain… definitely on my list of things I’d like to change, I’m tired of seeing zip codes in my posts 🙂

    Please also don’t hesitate to drop by at to try the latest beta version and leave feedback/bug reports there!

    Check in Team

    • trashr0x

      @Jen cool, show them what you can really do then! In this competitive mobile market it is the details that matter 😉

    • Hey Jen, nice to see you here! It’s always great to see someone from Nokia visiting MNB, last time I recall it was Damian Dinning answering a few questions about the N8 camera 🙂

  • Ovi, er , Nokia Maps needs:
    1) Voice Search
    2) Traffic update in Maps Mode (not only in Drive) for 3.07
    3) Reviews from friends of places are shown first
    4) Better offline search
    5) Faster loading of places/guides pages

  • Thanks all for the feedback so far, keep’em coming so we can make a great service even better 🙂

  • Deep Space Bar

    i just want 4 things done to Ovi maps

    1.updated locations..every store and restaurant on that street
    2.smoother scrolling
    3.better check ins
    4.more info about the locations if they are a stores or restaurants

  • Ovi Check-In is not useful, I prefer integration with Foursquare, Facebook Places, etc.

    tips to explore is something I would like to see when opening Ovi Maps in a new place… something like Foursquare has

  • Doug

    How about something as simple as “destination ahead on the right/left.”

    Currently we haven’t the slightest clue as to which side of the road the destination is on because it doesn’t tell us.

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