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On the Floor at Google I/O

I wasn’t really sure what design revelations to expect at Google I/O last week. Google released major Material changes last year, and I didn’t think sweeping changes would happen again so soon. While they didn’t talk about many visual design changes, they did introduce more guidance around designing apps, better legacy support for Material design and more compact design components for the Android SDK. The changes introduced this year seem to make implementing better design easier.


Looking Back

Google got nostalgic and devoted a few sessions to looking back at Material Design successes from the past year. It was mostly eye candy; however, it was good to see more apps adopting the design principles that put Google on the radar of the design community. Matías Duarte confirmed that Google is planning the next Form design conference, but didn’t announce a date. Most design sessions were so packed it was hard to get a good view—it seems developers and designers alike are excited about what’s evolving.

Thoughtful Design

One exciting theme was a focus on honing the user experience through thoughtful design. In a way, it felt that the large, sweeping changes were made last year, and this year the experience continues to be refined into one that’s truly rich. Many sessions introduced more granular control (for both user and developer) in areas like permissions and notifications, allowing developers to adjust the “volume” at which their apps interrupt a user. Users and developers can now adjust frequency, urgency, privacy and importance. As someone who wants to be interrupted only for important notifications, this is a dream come true. No more having to choose all or nothing!

Now on Tap

For me, Now On Tap was probably the most impressive new idea introduced during the keynote. It utilizes Google’s massive data superpowers to soak into the Android ecosystem and predict what a user needs and wants, without feeling like a filter or an extra layer. The context recognition was fascinating to watch, and I look forward to testing it out.

Inspiring Ventures

Google also devoted a ton of conference time to Google.org and Google Ventures projects. While Google Cardboard might seem gimmicky at first blush, the Expeditions project of bringing global experiences to classrooms around the world is exciting and inspiring. I also got to learn about iterating on Project Loon from some of the team that is doing the work. They’re bringing the internet to extreme remote locations using balloons. The Future!

Google.org session
Tech for a better world, faster: A discussion with Google.org’s social innovators.

What Google really proved with this conference is that they’re more than just a device and software company. They have much bigger ideas, and are in the business of designing experiences. They just happen to also design the tools for those experiences.


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