User Ideas and the Future of Gaia GPS

Last week I spent more than a day sorting, merging, closing, and clarifying all of the ideas ever posted for Gaia GPS. It now takes about 10 minutes to scan the remaining 200 ideas, and there used to be more than 700:

All the spam is gone, similar ideas are consolidated, and it’s a good time for folks interested in Gaia GPS to add your votes and ideas, and help us set our future directions. This forum factors heavily into what we do, and your comments could end up the topic of a meeting. You can add ideas on the website, or in the app itself.

Here are some notes on what I read, and hints (but not promises) about future work on Gaia GPS.

Gaia GPS user idea forum.

Idea Theme #1 – The Top Ideas

There are two ideas that currently win by a large margin. Each of these ideas has more than twice as many votes as any other, and more votes than the bottom 100 ideas combined.

  • Folders to organize data – This already works on iOS and web, and rolls out to Android this week. So, that one is in the bag.
  • Drawing/calculating capabilities for the map – This idea has been phrased in many ways, but essentially people want to draw lines and shapes on the map, and highlight/download/search/route based on those shapes. This will take us a couple of months to build, test, and get it right. No ETA on this one yet, but probably more of this in the future, and it comes up in discussion frequently.

Idea Theme #2 – Improve the UI

There are several ideas that hit on places in the UI where we could simply improve what’s there. These ideas actually excite me a little more right now than features, because Gaia GPS does so much already, and people do have reasonable critiques to offer.

  • Ability to remove unused map sources – This one is a long-standing gripe, especially among international users who don’t need USGS topos in their menus. This improvement will likely ship before end of August.
  • Keep heads up mode locked – This is actually an idea we didn’t originally agree with, but now do. It’s also likely we’ll fix/improve this in the next few months – there’s not much work to it.
  • Need multi-select – This tends to come up for power-users. They want to do some sort of operation (delete/exports/etc) with a selection of data. I think this is mostly addressed with Folders (perhaps with some tweaks), and we’ll see if the freshly updated idea gets further votes.
  • Translucent/wider GPS tracks – This is one place where we look rough next to the native maps app. This may also be low-hanging fruit we pluck soon.

Idea Theme #3 – More Maps

Few apps provide access to the depth of maps that Gaia GPS does, and we always look to add more. In updating the Idea Forum, I left the big map ideas separate, and consolidated the less popular ideas to improve their visibility.

  • Tons of ideas for maps – From more regional hunting maps, to vector nautical charts (we have raster), this idea consolidates many of the less popular map requests. It’s a pretty cool list, and we actually will add more of this to our catalog, or to our third-party links.
  • There is a request for USFS Motor Vehicle Maps with a lot of votes. Gaia GPS provides ways to import these and similar maps, but we could do some labor to collect some maps, properly “geo-reference” them, and make them easily available. This hasn’t quite become a priority for us, but not out of the question by any means.
  • Accuterra – Some people like Accuterra’s outdoor maps. I sparked a discussion about about Accuterra for Gaia GPS on our Forum recently too, because I am not a huge fan, but wanted to take another poll. A few things stop us from using these maps – the expense, the integration chores, and also that we believe in a future of open maps. We want to use Gaia GPS as a vehicle to contribute to OpenStreetMap. If the OpenStreetMap topos in the app are worse than Accuterra today… well then that’s the actual problem I want to solve.

Idea Theme #4 – More Features

In considering a new feature, we consider how hard it will be to build, whether it complicates the UI, how many users would use it, and many other factors. Here are some thoughts on some of the top requests by votes.

  • Compass is the top feature request. But it’s obvious people don’t just want any old analog compass – they want a compass or radar like interface, integrated with guidance, personal data, perhaps some geocaching, and other features in the map. This also hasn’t been a priority, because we’d like to do it right, and that’s a lot of effort.
  • Intermittent recording mode. For long range backpacking trips, people would like something lighter than recording a track (in terms of battery usage), but more mappable and shareable than making a bunch of waypoints/photos. This is something we might tinker with eventually.
  • Manage maps between device/PC – This idea is half-deployed, and the other half is in the works – I’d say we’ll mark this as fully resolved this year, or at least by next season. The solution here is basically MBTiles – a file format to bundle up maps. You can already import these on Android if you have GaiaPro, and you’ll soon be able to do the same on iOS. The other part of this we’d want to do before resolving the idea is the ability to also export MBTiles from the app, not just import.
  • More audible alarms – In Gaia GPS today, you can get voice over when you hit mile markers. There is a ton more we can do with voice in both guidance and announcing stats/distance. I’d expect leaps and bounds in this area over the next year. This sort of feature adds to the UI, but doesn’t add clutter, which is great.
  • Export to “Open In…” – You can export GPS data from Gaia GPS a lot of ways, but not open in another app. In hindsight, this would be really easy to add, and not clutter up the UI, so we’ll probably do it quite soon.
  • Track your friends – People have long called for a feature to live track friends, but this just doesn’t work where we intend people to use Gaia GPS – offline, in the woods. Many of our competitors have done this sort of feature over the years, and we’ve never seen it catch on. So, I wouldn’t expect it from us, until iPhones start talking to each other like walkie-talkies, using mesh networking, through a forest full of trees.
  • Stats and notifications on the lock screen – People would like to see stats about their current trip on the lock screen of the iPhone. We set the technical stage for this with our Apple Watch work, so I’d expect some of this on the phone as well.

Other Directions

All of that is to say, we’re listening! We also have a few ideas of our own, though these also come from listening to support requests, and other forms for feedback.

  • Search – We plan to make search work well offline, including auto-completing against trail and park names. We’ll have new search rolling out to website, Android, and iOS probably before year end. Throw in a vote/comment for this one if you’d like to see a stronger search capability. There are not that many votes for search, but maybe because it wasn’t all that well labeled.
  • Details/Sharing – We also consider the Details screen for a trip (on all platforms) to now be one of the weakest points in the UI. We’ll probably design these again from scratch, with lessons learned. Pictures will be bigger, controls will be more iconic, and we’ll look at usage stats to make sure our changes have the desired effect. These have evolved bit-by-bit for years, and now need a fresh look.

Add Your Voice

If you made it this far, we definitely want to hear from you.

Read the 160 ideas for iOS, and the 40 ideas for Android – and add some ideas or comments of your own.