Google CEO Sundar Pichai kicked off Google I/O — the annual developer festival held in San Francisco — with a clear message in his keynote: machine learning and artificial intelligence are where it’s at. “We’re moving from mobile-first to AI-first,” said Pichai. This was met with nervous laughter from the audience: if Google don’t already know everything about us, they soon will.
Then it was on to the business of learning. The packed agenda consisted of 155 sessions, 100 office hours, 85 codelabs and 19 sandboxes over three days. There were eight events running concurrently across 8 different stages every hour. Although it was difficult to decide which sessions to attend, I decided to focus on those that felt most relevant to my role and team at BNZ Digital.
A personal highlight was “What’s New in Android”, which provided an overview of what to expect from Android O in the coming months.
Cool features included background limits, which will improve battery life but increase the limits of what apps can do in the background. Picture-in-Picture, which will enable users to continue watching video while working within other apps. Some changes to notifications and support for autofill. A technical session introduced “instant apps” – Android apps that run without installation and provide users to have native experiences at the tap of a URL, accompanied with a live demo.
Google Product Manager Patrick Clary began “What’s New in Android Accessibility” by speaking about how designing for accessibility benefits all users. He spoke about the importance of user feedback in the design process. You should always try to use a diverse sample of users and include at least one person with accessibility needs in your research study.
At “Notifications UX: What’s New for Android O”, Julie Aranda, a UX Researcher, spoke about the research that inspired new notifications features in Android O. It included in-depth interviews, observations, group discussions and team workshops. One interesting insight: most users want some notifications – but not all. Notifications from family and friends are the “VIP”. People also want reminders for things that they need to do.
“Tools and Tips to Boost User Engagement and Retention” discussed the importance of user engagement and shared some of the proven best practices on how to do so. This included having a goal, testing, smart releases, great on-boarding, successful content launches and – once again – effective notifications. This session was particularly interesting, because we already do so much of this at BNZ. In saying that, we should always be mindful of these and never underestimate how important they are.
These were just a few of the sessions I attended over the three long, hot days. It left me feeling like I had barely scratched the surface. In addition to the exciting announcements and quality speakers, the after-hours entertainment was impressive. We started with a much-welcomed cold beer at 7pm and watched street performers, comedians and a private concert by LCD Soundsystem, who were flown in from New York to play especially for the festival, because… well, it’s Google.★