Sunday, February 20, 2011

Mapping sites showdown! Part 3: Mapquest

Hello and welcome to my review of the mapping site Mapquest

This review will be broken down into the positives and the negatives of the mapping site and will compare the performance of the routing engines at the end of this review.


First we shall take a look at the positives of the mapping site.

Mapquest uses NAVTEQ for their mapping data.

First topic: interface: Mapquest has recently revamped their user interface and made it more like the other mapping sites. It used to have a very different interface and it was sort of confusing for some users. It now works like Bing Maps or Google Maps. This seemed to be a positive move for them, as the complaints on “how do I do this” dropped on their forums and facebook page. I like the new mapquest interface so far. It has made things much easier to do.

Another thing I like is the quick POI's (points of interest) on the top to easily located hotels, gas, food, etc.

I also like the “send to” tools, as it has several options to easily send maps and directions to like facebook links, email links, GPS units, Mobile Phones, and more.

Directions show hints like “if you've reached x you've gone to far”

Printing directions are robust and you can display every turn's map allowing for greater visibility into your route and greatly assists you. The printing directions show miles driven on each column as well. You can even hide rows, and have zooming controls on each mini map and the detail is great. It also displays miles per section and a good bit of other details. They have the best printing options of any of the mapping sites.

Mapquest also has 360 degrees view of select areas and this is very helpful to finding locations and checking out new areas, However it is not as refined as Bing Maps or Google Maps. I will get to that more in the next section.

The site performance is very good and very fast. It is very responsive and the best of the mapping sites.

Now we shall take a look at the negatives of the mapping site:

Mapquest has been struggling for years with their reputation for getting people lost due to inaccurate address inputs and processing, and taking you through unwanted roads and roads you know of are in error.

For me it has been a mixed affair. Sometimes it is very good, and others has been very bad.

But for the review purposes I will apply this to my trips only.

So far the address inputs and processing for me, personally have been decent. Mapquest did show the proper location for the address I did input for this trip.

So for my case this is not so much of a negative on my end, but has been negative for most people

The 360 degree view is pretty restrictive and has trouble with people using some 'flash blockers” and clicking to enable puts it into a persistent loading state and never loads the control. The only fix for this is making an exception for Mapquest.com or not using the “flash block”.

It is not as freeform as Bing Maps or Google Maps. You must click on little orange dots to “drive”forward and panning is a little wonky.

Now for the route dragging it can be a little wonky because it can be a tad fitsy at times, but Bing Maps sometimes has this issue as well.

Right click is inactivated for most of the interface.


Let's take a look at the routing options:
Route options: Shortest time, shortest distance with avoidances that include the following: highways,seasonal roads,ferries, tolls, county borders, timed restrictions

Now we shall move onto the routing engine performance!

I took my trip to MicroCenter to purchase my monitor on 9.22.10 that I am now using to write this review on. It is a good bit of a trip, but I thought it was worth it!

I sent the directions to my cellphone as a MMS message so I can take it with me since I did not have a printer at the time and I did not have a GPS unit or a phone with one. It worked and formatted decently well and was pretty easy to read.

I did choose to drag the route, as I did not want to take the back way to my destination, However I did let Mapquest do the rest.

Mapquest seems to be more willing to use freeways by default. That's good.

The route was : 2 hours 37 minutes | DISTANCE: 155.89 miles according to Mapquest and seemed reasonable.

The timing was fairly accurate, had we not stopped at a rest area and talked to a man with his dog for a long time. (laughs)

I will present the route in more detail:

Please note: I am going to start at step 7 to avoid disclosing my current location:

    7. Merge onto I-70 W via EXIT 44B on the LEFT toward COLUMBUS.  (go 70.72 miles)
    8. Take the I-270 S/I-270 N exit, EXIT 108A-B, toward CINCINNATI/CLEVELAND.  (go 0.2 miles)
    9. Take the I-270 N exit, EXIT 108B, toward CLEVELAND.  (go 1.26 miles)
    10. Take the US-270 exit on the LEFT toward CLEVELAND.  (go 0.88 miles)
    11. Merge onto I-270 N.  (go 7.09 miles)
    12. Keep LEFT to take I-270 N toward MORSE RD/CLEVELAND.  (go 10.52 miles)
    13. Merge onto OH-315 S via EXIT 22 toward COLUMBUS.  (go 3.77 miles)
    14. Take the BETHEL RD exit.  (go 0.31 miles)
    15. Turn RIGHT onto BETHEL RD.  (go 0.91 miles)
    16. Turn LEFT onto DALMENY CT.  (go 0.03 miles)
    17. Turn RIGHT to stay on DALMENY CT.  (go 0.18 miles)
    18. Take the 1st RIGHT to stay on DALMENY CT.  (go 0.03 miles)
    19. Turn RIGHT onto BETHEL RD.  (go 0.66 miles)
    20. 747 BETHEL RD is on the RIGHT.  (go 0 miles)
747 Bethel Rd, Columbus, OH 43214-1901

As you can see the I270 stretch is broken down into 5 steps and it is very hard for drivers to see this. The route did not need to be broken down into so many steps because just one maneuver was really needed for this trip. This made it difficult to navigate this because it made us think the route was more complex then it really was.

The route ending wanted me to make sure my destination was on the right side by having me turn into this one apartment complex, turn around in their road, and then go back on bethel road, and then turn right to get to my destination! This was really strange because all I really needed to do was turn left at the light to get there.

However I have noticed they have improved the ending result (date executed: 11.20.10) of this trip and it is a tad better now:

7.Merge onto I-70 W via EXIT 44B on the LEFT toward COLUMBUS.70.7 mi
8.Take the I-270 S/I-270 N exit, EXIT 108A-B, toward CINCINNATI/CLEVELAND.0.2 mi
9.Take the I-270 N exit, EXIT 108B, toward CLEVELAND 1.3 mi
10.Take the US-270 exit on the LEFT toward CLEVELAND.0.9 mi
11.Merge onto I-270 N.7.1 mi
12.Keep LEFT to take I-270 N toward MORSE RD/CLEVELAND.10.5 mi
13.Merge onto OH-315 S via EXIT 22 toward COLUMBUS.3.8 mi
14.Take the BETHEL RD exit.0.3 mi
15.Turn RIGHT onto BETHEL RD.0.4 mi
16.Make a U-TURN onto BETHEL RD.0.1 mi
17.747 BETHEL RD is on the RIGHT.

Instead of the weird anomaly at the apartment complex it shortens the ending and results in a un-needed u-turn. This is some improvement at least! It does tell you the side of the road your destination is. Bing Maps does not suggest the u-turn, it simply tells you that you've arrived at your destination and you need to make the final choice on your own! We realistically did not have to make the u-turn we just turned left at the light to get to MicroCenter.

Overall for for the routing engine performance I will give them a 2.5/5 For this trip. I really hope to see them improve!

I will be doing a follow up with all these sites on the next longer trip.

Overall my ratings for each category are as follows:

presentation:4/5 routing performance:2.5/5 printing:4/5 ease of use:5/5 routing options:4/5 website performance:5/5

Overall rating (all categories) 4/5

Recommended: maybe


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