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?
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!!