A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how Search is a key weakness in Nokia’s web plans, and highlighted the search in Ovi Maps as a key example.
Well Nokia has released an upgrade which brings:
- improvement in search
- overall speed improvement
- introduction of “Good Things” – social sharing of favourite places, on the PC version only so far
- limited functionality versions of the site for Linux, Chrome and Opera browsers, pending full plug-ins for these
The improvement in search is the most important of these right now, because the search was so poor. And it is a good step forward.
Now, when you try my two litmus tests of “Wimbledon Tennis” and “Lords Cricket” the first hit is the right answer, just as it is on Google. Excellent.
It’s also good that the same search is available on the mobile device without upgrading the client software.
This is good progress – well done Nokia – and it fixes one of my two big issues with the Ovi Maps search.
But the other is still there.
“Pulteney” is one of those annoying English words that tie schoolkids’ brains in knots all around the world as they try to master the language. That’s because it could be spelled in several ways and actually it is spelled in different ways in different parts of the world – Poultney, Poulteney, Pultney are all valid somewhere.
So someone visiting the Nokia office in Great Pulteney Street in central London may not get the spelling right on the first hit. And Ovi Maps will not help them.
- If you do not spell the word correctly then Ovi Maps tells you”We could not find any results for Great Pultney. Please ensure that location, street and city names are spelled correctly“
- On the mobile device it’s even less helpful offering a blunt “No results found“, with no clues at all about what you should do next
Compare this with Google Maps.
- If you spell it wrongly with “Great Pultney” it says:”Did you mean:
Great Pulteney St, Bath, Avon BA2, UK
- On the mobile device Google Maps also says “Did you mean ..” and offers the correct result
I’m convinced that people (not just schoolkids struggling with English) are much more likely to make spelling mistakes when using maps than in ordinary web searching. And, if they’re searching on their mobile phone, they are unlikely to have access to other sources to check out the spelling.
So map search needs to be even more tolerant of ambiguity and even more helpful than normal Google-style searching.
It’s difficult for Nokia because people expect Google-grade search coming from a non-search specialist company – Nokia is going to have to work hard to meet the minimum. Plus Google itself is moving quickly with developments on Google Maps, constantly raising the bar on the non-navigation side of mapping.
Sadly the search improvements do not seem to have been applied to other parts of Ovi such as the Ovi Store … yet. There a search for “Webcam” currently gives you different results on the device and the PC, and only finds some of the apps that relate to using your phone as a webcam.
The other big step with Ovi Maps is Good Things. This is a public feature that allows anyone to highlight a place, enter a short description of it and publish it to the map so that others can see it. Nokia will even be running big electronic signposts in some cities highlighting the Good Things people have put in.
This feature is a first step. It currently does not integrate well with the UI of the maps – you cannot use Good Things from the normal map viewer; instead you have to go into Good Things, find the place again, and then identify it as a Good Thing. You can’t easily turn your Favourites into Good Things. You can’t make them in to MyMaps (as on Google). You can’t push them to certain people or groups. You can’t use, see or create them on your mobile yet. There is a Latest Good Things feed but you can’t filter it to things, places, people or languages that you’re interested in – you get the whole lot.
But Good Things gives a clear pointer to where Nokia is heading with the Maps service. It’s not hard to imagine a much richer service, like a global version of FourSquare, within the next 12 months.