Google Maps for Walking 

Encouraging commuters to adopt walking as a daily practice

Encouraging commuters to adopt walking as a daily practice

Encouraging commuters to adopt walking as a daily practice

Encouraging commuters to adopt walking as a daily practice

HCDE 518 Classroom Project


TL;DR Summary



How might we encourage commuters to integrate walking into their daily routine?

How might we encourage commuters to integrate walking into their daily routine?

How might we encourage commuters to integrate walking into their daily routine?

While the current digital navigation tools promote the fastest commute mode and route, there is a need for sustainable and healthier urban mobility practices. HMW leverage existing infrastructures to motivate people to adopt sustainable commute modes.


How might we encourage commuters to integrate walking into their daily routine?

How might we encourage commuters to integrate walking into their daily routine?

How might we encourage commuters to integrate walking into their daily routine?

Google Maps, which 67% of Americans use for navigation, can motivate people to adopt walking as a daily practice and a healthier, more sustainable commute mode.


Gauri Nayak, Parag Nandi, Rabab Rabbani, Ruoxi Shang

My Role

Lead UX Designer and Product Manager


User Research and Synthesis, Product Scoping, Storyboarding, Interaction Design, Product Management


Oct 16th - Dec 6th, 2021 (Seven weeks)

Concept Scenario with Google Maps


Problem Space

150 Million+

daily commuters in the US


use Google Maps for navigation


commute by walking

Research questions we wanted to address:
1. What's keeping people from walking to their workplaces?
2. What are their inhibitions, concerns, and expectations while walking?
3. How can walking become a part of people's lifestyle and a more approachable medium of commute?

Target Users

Our target users are people who regularly commute from home to the workplace (office, university, retail and service stores, etc.).

Intial Problem Statement

How might we encourage walking as a more approachable commute choice using digital navigation systems?

Research Methods


We started with secondary research to understand the current commuting and navigation practices in the United States and gaps in present product offerings. Then, we conducted surveys to understand our target users, their commute behaviors, pain points, and challenges. To get a more in-depth understanding of what makes walking enjoyable or challenging for different individuals, we conducted primary research with participants with diverse commute preferences. Then, we adopted the unique guided tour approach to shadow participants through their commute experiences and gained vital details that interviews or surveys would not have revealed.

Survey Doc


Surveyed 31 participants to understand their behavior and pain points during the commute

- Participants described internal factors (lack of energy, boredom) and external factors (roadblocks, noise, weather, safety) as challenges in walking
- Participants described saving time, fun to do, and budget as the main motivating factors for choosing walking as the preferred commute mode

Semi Structured Interview

Semi-structured Interviews

Interviewed 8 participants (five males and three females) in the age range of 22 to 60 years

- The perceived benefits of walking (flexibility, health & fitness) are higher than the difficulties
- People often prefer completing secondary tasks, e.g., grocery shopping, grabbing coffee/lunch while commuting to-and-fro workplaces
- Walking commuters build up their habits and commit to a routine over time

Guided Tour

Guided Tours

Home to workplace guided tour with 2 participants to understand their commute routine and nuances

- Users often time themselves mentally - they check time before leaving & estimate when they'd reach
-  Users tend to check their phones while waiting for the pedestrian signals to activate
- Users like a sense of passive company while walking - something that does not directly interfere with their walking experience but makes them feel like they are not alone

Please find the detailed user research report here:

Analysis & Synthesis


First grouped the participant quotes according to deductive codes based on our research questions

Affinity mapping based on themes

Then, we did a second round of grouping based on themes and patterns that evolved from the participant quotes

Screen Shot 2022-05-15 at 8.34.11 PM

Finally, we holistically analyzed the evolved themes to come up with actionable insights that can drive our design opportunities and decisions

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Key Insights



Preplanning Commute

People decide their commute mode and mentally time themselves based on their sleep routine, morning mental state, calendar events, and work deadlines.


Time vs. Energy

If the required walking time is more than 20 minutes, people prefer other commute modes due to lack of energy and time constraints.


External Deterrents

Uphill roads, constructions on the route, and weather conditions, e.g., rain, snow, harsh sun, deter people from walking for commuting.


Safety Concerns

People usually walk alone and are concerned about their safety, especially at night, when the route leads through sketchy neighborhoods.


Untethered Flexibility

People choose the fastest commute mode while going to the office, but while returning, they want to walk, enjoy their surroundings, complete secondary tasks, e.g., grocery shopping.


Alternate Fitness

Users like walking for commuting as it adds to their fitness activity since most of the time, they are sitting at work and do not find dedicated time for workouts.

Refined Problem Statement

How might we encourage commuters to integrate walking into their daily routine?

Explanation: Our research informed us that the distance and landscape between workplace and home location vary significantly in the US. In some cases, cars are the only viable option for commuting, and walking cannot replace it. So, we iterated our design question to promote walking as part of users’ daily routine instead of replacing a commuting medium.

Design Opportunities

real-time suggestion

Planning Assistance

Identify suitability of walking based on user's commute constraints and personal preferences and provide flexible navigation planning suggestions.

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Real-time Suggestions

Proactively detect users' needs and challenges on the route and offer real-time suggestions to improve the walking experience.

Screen Shot 2021-12-06 at 11.24.34 AM

Habit Formation

Understand users' daily routines, identify opportunities to recommend walking, and reward users for forming the habit.



Based on the interview findings and participant quotes, we noticed a clear pattern in terms of goals, daily routine, commute needs, and challenges. We grouped these behavioral patterns into 3 personas (1 primary and 2 secondary), which further helped us ideate human-centric solutions catering to the needs of multiple personas.

Slide 16_9 – 1
Slide 16_9 – 2
Slide 16_9 – 3

Concept Creation


Using the key research insights, design opportunities, and user needs defined in the personas, we conducted asynchronous ideation sessions and finally converged as a group to prioritize and combine the ideas into feasible concepts.

Idea Consolidation


Storyboard New

Usability Testing with Lo-Fi & Mid-Fi Prototype


We conducted two rounds of usability testing, first, a pilot test with low fidelity prototype to identify the gaps in information presentation, and the second round of usability test with a mid-fidelity prototype to test interactions and in-context usage

Usability Testing Plan, Findings, and Refinement Report available here:

Design Highlights


Since most Americans (67%) use Google Maps for navigation, we decided not to design a new navigation app but rather build on top of Google Maps to encourage walking as a more approachable commute choice for American workers.

Flexible Planning


Value for users:
While returning from work, users generally have a more relaxed timeframe, where Google Maps can suggest nearby events (based on user preferences) on the route. These suggestions can motivate people to walk to the events and introduce them to new experiences.

Value for Google:
Such event suggestions open up opportunities for generating ad revenue for Google for driving offline foot traffic to local businesses.

Real-time Suggestion: Weather (Rain)


Value for users:
Assurance of knowing that the store welcomes commuters to take shelter during adverse weather conditions reduces the anxiety while walking. Users can complete their secondary tasks while commuting, e.g., grabbing a coffee, buying groceries, etc.

Value for Google:
Partnering with local stores and highlighting them on the routes as shelters during adverse weather conditions open up monetization opportunities through ad revenues.

Value for businesses:
Local businesses can receive more foot traffic by getting highlighted on Google Maps and building trust with the community by supporting people during adverse weather conditions.

Real-time Suggestion: Multi-level Roads

Real-time Suggestion: Near Destination


Reminder to Walk


Value for users:
People who can't adopt walking as a regular commute mode can still get the "alternate fitness" benefits from integrating walking into their daily routine. Google Maps can intelligently find nuggets of time in a user's routine (e.g., lunchtime) to suggest walking to local vendors and trails.

Value for Google:
Such use cases beyond commuting open up new opportunities for Google to improve the stickiness of their Maps app and reach out to new audiences.

Long-term Habit Formation

Habit Nudge

Value for users:
The group challenge notifications motivate users to complete their daily step goals through commute activities, form social connections, and build long-term habits. Achieving the challenge goals brings a sense of accomplishment and willingness to adopt walking into a daily routine and as a commute mode.

Value for Google:
Mapping step goals with commute goals open new opportunities for cross-platform integrations, e.g., health and maps.

Ideas for further development

AI Planning
Micro Nudges

Personalized Commute Planning

Provide AI-driven commute plans using upcoming calendar events and sleep pattern analysis of users' wake-up time, mood, and energy level, helping users start from home on time.

Enabling Safety for Walkers

Crowdsourcing safety ratings for routes and suggesting safer options for walking; Ensuring safety at night through verified walking buddies commuting on the same path.

Micro Nudges for Walking

Suggest opportunities to walk through micro-interactions (converting distance/time to steps/calories) on Google Maps whenever the distance and time are within manageable limits.

Future Considerations

Looking Ahead

Incorporate sustainable commute modes beyond walking to include sub-cultures, e.g., skating, e-scooters, bikes, etc.

Personalize the commute experience for people through AI-based suggestions and assistance.

My learnings & Journey Map through the Project

User Journey Map

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@2021 Parag Nandi