Regardless of what the timing may suggest the new features on geocaching.com have been in the works for some time. That much is obvious. What is not so obvious are some of the subtle changes that have taken place. More thought is going in to the design. Groundspeak is moving away from what my friend calls “developer art” toward a more refined and nuanced design aesthetic.
The beta maps are very fast and very interesting. I’m not sure how helpful they will be in the short-term in helping you select the caches you want to find. To start with your finds are not highlighted on the map. Hopefully the next version of maps will allow you to remove your finds from the display so that you can see caches you haven’t found more easily.
I have prepared a legend of the icons you see on the map. Some of the icons are quite similar, luckily they aren’t common types.
The new map looks more like the old map when you drop down below 500m.
|Above 500m||Below 500m|
It is helpful to be able to provide a city location as your center point for the map. There is no question that the new map function is much more accessible to the novice geocacher.
This is the left selection panel from the map page. There are very few selection options for the map. You can change the underlying map provider but you cannot filter caches. Something I really like about this map is that you can link to view of the map you see. This will make it easier to share maps when planning group outings.
The map is also a neat way to visualize data. Zoom out a ways and you’ll start to get an idea of the geocaching coverage for particular areas. Being rid of the 500 cache limit is very nice.
Most people are going to skip the announcement message they see when they go to the beta maps. If you read the messages you’ll get tipped off to something that is coming – Geocaching Social. It probably won’t be a Facebook killer bit it could be quite interesting depending on how it is implemented.
A revised map is not the only features that has been added. There has been a subtle change to the order of sections on the right column of your profile page. The most noticeable of these changes is the addition of the favorites section. From this section you are able to manage the favorites you have already made and see how many favorites you can assign. I have not been able to see the favorite “thermometer” as mentioned in this post from last week. Perhaps this feature is not part of the official release.
The long awaited and much anticipated cache “rating” system arrives in the guise favorites. Cachers will be able to mark a cache as a favorite. You are not currently able to select caches with more then X number of favorites as a criteria in a pocket query. This would be a good addition when trying to find caches in a location you are travelling to. You can however sort ascending or descending for favorites from the lists that display geocaches.
One of the things I was pleased to see is that you can view the list of cachers who favorited your cache. I find it a bit annoying that I can’t see who has put my cache on their watch list. Why it matters to me I’m not sure but it does. So I was quite relieved to see that there is visibility into who favourited your cache. This could also be a great way to find out why they liked it so that you can improve your next hide.
The menu of options available on your profile has changed slightly. The link to “watchlist” has been changed to “lists”. The new page includes your watch lists, bookmark lists and favorites.
Besides on the cache page the other location you’ll see a favorite count is in the list of your finds that you get to from the “geocaches” menu in your profile, look for the “have found” option on the right. This is the same view you see when you do a cache search from the “hide & seek a cache” main menu option.
Here is how this list used to look compared to how it looks now.
The compass column is still blank. I’m not sure what is supposed to be in there. The “info” column contains icons for travel bugs, coins, premium member caches, etc. There were none of those icons in the part of the list I was looking at when grabbed the screen cap. This is another example of how the design has received a subtle upgrade. It’s minor but it adds a bit of polish to the pages.
Over all there are only three big changes to geocaching.com that we can discern from this update: beta maps, stats page and the favoriting system. I wrote about the stats page last week so I did not cover it here. I”m sure there are other enhancements behind the scenes that make the site run better. I hope that we’ll see even more changes early in the new year. I’m one person that is happy to pay my premium membership if it means I get access to great tools to make geocaching more enjoyable for me.