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Finding Your Way

By Alejandro Rocha


One of the many benefits of living in an information age is being able to access many informational services at no charge. These services range widely in both their scope and usability. Online direction services are likely amongst the most popular free online services, but their usability can vary from one website to another. Getting detailed and accurate directions quickly can be a real benefit, but only if they can be interpreted effectively by the user. This requires great attention to detail by the content creators in order to communicate the complicated information in a simple manner. Directing drivers can easily go wrong if the smallest bit of information is displayed in an ambiguous or confusing manner.



MapQuest and Yahoo! Maps are two online websites that provide free directions to users. Both websites are capable of providing directions to specific addresses or general directions to a city or town. Once appropriate addresses are provided, the websites supply turn-by-turn directions to the destination. I have found these directions to be remarkably accurate. The directions even include distances between waypoints along the route. Although


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the MapQuest and Yahoo! Maps interfaces are similar, MapQuest provides a more usable interface.


When directions are provided by MapQuest, the first thing the user sees is a numbered set of turn-by-turn directions with a clear starting point. Yahoo! Maps shows a confusing map at the very top and then provides dull mechanical directions below. MapQuest also makes it easy to expand and view particular parts of the route by clicking a highly visible link at the end of each row. Although Yahoo! Maps provides this functionality, the link is not noticeable and details can only be seen for the entire route, not individual parts.


The user must be careful when using the directions of either service. Although both services provide printable directions, they are not meant to be used while driving.  The user should study the directions carefully before departing and should stop at a safe place if the directions need to be accessed. In either case, the usability of the direction services is very good, but they must be adhered to very closely since drivers will have to find their way back on their own if they miss a waypoint.


Works Cited


MapQuest: Driving Directions. http://www.mapquest.com/directions/main.adp?bCTsettings=1 (accessed March 21, 2006).


Yahoo! Maps, Driving Directions, and Traffic. http://maps.yahoo.com/dd (accessed March 21, 2006).