Google recently made some visual changes and additions to its popular mapping application designed to make it a bit easier on the eyes and user-friendly.

Zhou Bailiang, UX Designer, Google Maps and Mark Li, Software Engineer, Google Local, explain that it starts with a cleaner look. For example, they've removed non-essential elements like road outlines and improved the typography of street names, points of interest, transit stations and so on to make them more distinguishable from other items on the map.

The cleaner canvas, they said, opens up the possibility to highlight areas of interest through subtle orange shading that is determined via an algorithmic process. In high-density areas like New York City, however, Maps also relies on some human intervention to highlight the most active areas.

When you see a shaded area, you can zoom in further for more information about venues in that area.

Last but not least, Google has implemented a subtle color scheme designed to help users easily differentiate between things like man-made or natural features as well as schools, hospitals, freeways, bodies of water and so on.

The updates are all part of the latest version of Google Maps for Android, iOS and on the desktop. The new look may be a bit surprising to some, especially if they aren't anticipating it, although I don't think it'll take too long for everyone to get acclimated.