This is a basic Google map that doesn't show the neighborhoods in a meaningful way:
The map above is a basic screenshot from Google Maps, which shows the northern part of Seattle. (I'm trying to explain the main neighborhoods of the area to people from another town.) So the pic above is a boring, generic map.
The map below is a scribbled "mind map" of Seattle:
The mind map has very little to do with the names on the Google map. (I'm having a hard time getting the second map larger, but I hope you will get the general idea.)
To make the mind map I used a screenshot (AKA Snipping Tool) to capture the picture. Then, I scribbled out a legend (with a photo program) and circled the main areas (mind map) that native Seattleites use to get around the city. If you can't read my scribbles, here's what the scribbles say if you follow the order of the legend:
*The orange circle is the general area of Capitol Hill (it actually extends further north and south, but you get the general idea).
*The blue circle is Ballard.
*The pink circle with a Q is Queen Anne Hill.
*The green circle is Green Lake Park.
*The dark U is the University District (Udub).
*The purple L is the area called Laurelhurst.
*The black arrows on the right are the 520 Bridge (which goes to Bellevue and Microsoft) and the I-90 Bridge (which goes to Mercer Island and Bellevue).
*The arrow on the left shows where Downtown Seattle is.
*The mustard yellow squiggle which goes north and south is "the freeway."
If You Know These Areas, You're Cake
If you know these neighborhoods (and the bodies of water in and around Seattle), I can explain how to get just about anywhere in north Seattle. For example, if I tell you that the Space Needle is in between Downtown and Queen Anne Hill, you will have some idea where it is. Or, if I tell you that University Village is between the U-District and Laurelhurst, you could find it without GPS.
Help With Boise
I am hoping that someone from the Boise ID area can show me (or make me) something like this for the main Boise neighborhoods (and the bike trail by the river, if you're feeling industrious). It would be a big help for people who don't know Boise.
ps If you asked a hundred people in Seattle how to get to West Woodland (which is a name on the first Google map), none of those hundred people would know what the hell you were talking about. Normal people from Seattle would consider that part of town to be Ballard, Phinney Ridge (if it's the part on a hill) or Fremont (the southern section of the fictional "West Woodland"). The green square near "West Woodland" is the "Woodland Park Zoo," so there is a slight chance that someone somewhere, with a Mensa IQ, might make the connection and point you in the right direction. I am only pointing this out to show how confusing some online maps can be.
pps - I went back to the "real" Google map and zeroed in on the "West Woodland" area. People would call "West Woodland" something like: "the part of Ballard that's just below Phinney Ridge" or "that area near the Ballard Market" or "that area just south of Market Street." My point is that locals don't always use the names shown on some surveyer's map.