Google’s Carter Maslan: “Heads were down” during recent LBC upgrade

Google Maps recently introduced a new user interface for the Local Business Center. There were some issues with the upgrade and Carter Maslan, Google’s Director of Product Management for Local, agreed to answer some of my questions about the process in a phone conversation.

MB: What was the goal of the upgrade? What prompted the change?

Carter: We wanted to address usability issues to make it simpler to get through the process and having it flow on a single screen was a big driver.

Usability was the main motivator…simple things like not a big enough map to be able to accurately move the pin, having a clear sense of where you are in the process etc. We were trying to address the flow through the enrollement to make it as fast and simple as possible

MB: What do you perceive to be the greatest improvements from the new interface?

Carter: We do a combo of usuability studies in labs and montior actual useage and user sucess rates. We look at both and try to improve the overall process…this was the first refresh of the UI in a while and was intended to pick up high payback UI changes.

MB: There were a lot of complaints in the Maps groups over the past 10 days. What was up?

Carter: All things will be fixed very very soon and those things not yet fixed should be ok within days…we were not able to replicate the bulk upload problem. But all problems [with the new Local Business Center] should be reported into the Maps Group and we will take a look.

The Maps team read the posts about problems on the local blogs and in the groups but their heads were down. The Team fixing the problems were totally heads down…so no one was available to give answers in the group.

The main point is that even if we need to work on proactive communication, the team is paying attention…and will try to do better on the communication.

MB: Was there a change in listing policy? The Pin is now required on all single entries? What precipiated that change?

Carter: We are experimenting with how much verification vs. how much ease of use. There are variables as to when to prompt…in the past it had been too liberal, and is becoming more stringent. We are experimenting on the quality of the listings and spam…there is no hard yes or no answer to the correct structure.

MB: Will there be some accomodations to facilitate entry for agencies and such? Will there be something like a Trusted Partner status?

Carter: We are contemplating something like the letter of agency policy for cell phone companies…we are fleshing out the details. We are interested in coming up with a way to allow people with good intentions to do so…for both bulk uploads and multiple singles entries.

We initially are looking at it primarily geared toward primary sources…like a chain. How do we make it easier for the chaim to control the records even if there is conflicting info from a secondary data source?

The first step is for to us to provide simplified verfication for use by primary data providers like a national business or chains…whether it extends to other aggregators or agencies is in discussion.

We hope to have this available soon…less than a year and maybe as soon as a quarter. We are working through the process.

MB: Is there short term efforts to integrate analytics and adwords

Carter: What would you like to see with analytics? What should we do?

I am not on the ad word team…we do have joint discussions on how to make everything simpler…the auction concept is difficult and there are discussions on how to simplify and to maximize an ad campaign. But for now we will stay diedicated to getting basic listings up and running.

MB: Is there a plan to roll out the new Local Business Center interface to the international market? What is the time

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Google's Carter Maslan: "Heads were down" during recent LBC upgrade by