Tag Archives: Design

Flutter Create’s big winner is a self-taught “beginner”

When Zebiao Hu found out he won the $10,000 Flutter Create grand prize, he didn't even tell his own wife. She learned about it through his posts on social media. He says he didn’t boast about his big win because he still sees himself as a beginner: He taught himself Flutter just weeks before the deadline, and created a compass app that won him the big prize. 

Flutter is Google's toolkit for building beautiful apps that run on your mobile phone, laptop and web browser from the same code (instead of having to write a different app for each device, as is common today). When Google announced Flutter Create, the contest attracted attention from developers all over the world. We received nearly a thousand submissions from 60+ countries and regions, including entries from both first-time coders and Flutter experts. The contest challenged developers to build something interesting, inspiring, and beautiful with Flutter using five kilobytes or less of Dart code. That’s a tiny amount of space: to put it into perspective, that’s less than half a second of a typical digital music file.

Flutter Create highlights

Highlights from the hundreds of submissions we received.

As a coder working in Shenzhen, China, Zebiao decided to learn about mobile development, because the industry was heading in a “mobile-first direction.” He bought books about Flutter and Dart in Chinese, and started to learn during the spring of 2019. Flutter Create was less than one month away.

Zebiao is no stranger to teaching himself how to code, though. In high school, he spent days and nights in the computer room, taking up coding because of his love of video games. After becoming an accomplished player, he began to wonder, "How are these games developed? Could I make one myself?"

Zebiao Hu, Flutter Create winner

Zebiao in the park where he usually jogs.

But, at that time, information about programming was hard to get and, for a high school student, difficult to learn. Luckily, Zebiao discovered a box of CDs, with one called “Programming.” His hobby turned into a career. As an early adopter, he became well known in local software circles, and was often approached to collaborate on projects. Customers became frequent customers, and then friends, bringing even more projects to him. 

Eventually, Zebiao got married and became the father of two children. Every day, he sends his children to school, and goes home to work. In the evening, he ends his work day and picks the kids up.

He says when he’s not working, he’s “running, drinking tea, and spending the weekend with my children at the amusement park.” And he’ll still take time to play the video games he played 15 or 20 years ago. 

Zebiao Hu, Flutter Create winner, made a compass app

The compass app did not feature a globe at first. 

When he set out to build his compass app, Zebiao found useful materials on Flutter’s official  website, Flutter’s Youtube channel and from Flutter Chinese online communities. He didn’t aim for the prize because he hadn’t been using Flutter for long, but instead entered to test his knowledge. 

He started the new project on March 15, only three weeks from April 7, the final submission date for Flutter Create. After the first version of the app was completed, the code was less than 5KB, but Zebiao was not satisfied, because it lacked an interesting visual. "It was boring to read the latitude and longitude in text form," he says. So he decided to upgrade the design to display the data using an interactive globe.

There was only one small problem: he had never programmed an animation before.

“Honestly, I learned everything from scratch,” Zebiao says. “After all, I had never used these tools before.” 

Finally, two days before the deadline, Zebiao successfully submitted his compass application.

Zebiao Hu's app

 Zebiao learned how to make his app from scratch. 

Zebiao says he doesn’t want to give advice to Flutter beginners, because he sees himself as a beginner, too. But he urged people to keep learning, even if their projects don’t use Flutter yet, and to find their own community of developers to share resources. And he says it’s important to stay open to whenever an idea strikes. “Keep a notebook with you,” he says. “Write down your thoughts, ideas or problems whenever possible. And try to solve them later.” 

When you can’t find the words, 65 new emoji are here for you

Are you a 🥳person or a 💃person? Or maybe you're more of a 💝💖💓💞💕💖❣ person than a simple 🥰person. Either way it's time to celebrate what is arguably the most important day of the year, World Emoji Day. Never heard of it? That's ok, you can look forward to 65 new emoji that we’re releasing with Android Q later this year. For those who can’t wait, here’s a sneak peek at what’s coming:

A sloth for when you’re having a slow morning and running late but looking cute.

sloth emoji.jpeg

An otter for when you need to tell your significant otter that they are otterly amazing.

otter emoji.png

Garlic for when you need to fend off some vampires.

garlic emoji.png

Waffle emoji and kneeling emoji. For when you’re proposing your undying commitment and love for … breakfast.

proposalwaffle.png

Service Dog emoji and Guide Dog emoji. Just two good boys.

dog emoji.png

There are a lot of different kinds of couples out there, and our emoji should reflect that. So we designed 71 couples with different skin tones.

multi skintone emoji.png

The Diya lamp emoji is also new. We’ve had Christmas and Thanksgiving covered for a while—now it’s time for Diwali celebrations.

diwali emoji.png

We’re supporting 53 emojis with gender inclusive designs. For example, the emoji for “police officer” is commonly displayed as male and "person getting haircut" is female. These kinds of design decisions can reinforce gender stereotypes so with this update, emojis that don’t specify gender will default to a gender-ambiguous design. You can still choose between male and female presentations if want to opt into a gender on your keyboard.

gender emojis.gif

These new emoji will officially become available with the launch of Android Q. If you have one of these phones, you can access them today by enrolling in the Q Beta program. 

♓🅰️🅿🅿️✌ 〰🅾®️🕒D  📧♏️🔘🌶🕯️ D🅰️✌❕

Source: Android


The importance of influence in design

Human behavior has always intrigued me—that's the reason I studied psychology as an undergraduate. At the time, I wondered how those learnings could one day apply to life in the “real world.” As it turns out, an understanding of people and human behavior is an invaluable asset when it comes to cultivating influence—especially when it comes to design.

In my role as VP of User Experience (UX) Design at Google, I’m constantly tasked with influencing others. I lead a team of designers, researchers, writers and engineers who are behind products like Google’s Shopping, Trips, Payments and Ads. To create great experiences, we must first convince the people building these products that design is elemental to delivering not just user value, but also business value. Over the years I've seen how the ability to build influence is essential to designing the best experiences.

User empathy is a fast track to influence

As UX professionals (designers, writers, researchers and front-end engineers), it’s our job to fully grasp the needs of people using our products and be the spokesperson for them. It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that we understand our users without witnessing them actually using our products, or to believe that our personal experiences reflect those of people everywhere. Yet every time I go out into the real world and spend time with people actually using our products, I come back with an unexpected insight that changes how I initially thought about a problem.

In 2017, I took a trip to Jakarta to research the challenges of using smartphones in a region where service is relatively expensive and bandwidth is not readily available. It wasn’t until I was on the ground that I realized how degraded the experience was from what I’d pictured. Similarly, during a recent trip to Tel Aviv, I learned how difficult it is to get funding and grow a business. Developing this kind of understanding, which can only come from experience, helps motivate you to fix a problem from a different angle.

Ideally, we’d bring all of our team members into the field to have these first-hand experiences, but that approach doesn’t scale. What does scale is empathy. We can share our personal experiences, research and user stories to build greater understanding. Once we’ve built a foundation of shared understanding, we can have better influence over decisions that affect users.


customer personas

Understanding people's experiences and stories help build better products.

Inspire action with compelling stories

Research can provide the data and anecdotes that help others understand why your design meets a specific need, but how you present that data is equally important.

Creating rich stories full of photos and video clips helps expose others to how people use products and the challenges they encounter. On multiple occasions, I’ve been in a room where research clips of people interacting with a product or prototype are shared with executives and partners. Without fail, observing real people use products gets everyone animated and excited. Watching someone fumble through a task creates a sense of urgency to solve a problem that can’t be generated through data.

One way to do this is with prototyping software or animated slides that show a product flow or tell a narrative that helps people understand the pain points of a product or the ease of its well-designed experience. An interactive prototype lets people experience the full possibilities. If you’re lucky enough to work with a UX engineer, prototypes are probably already a part of your influence repertoire. There’s nothing better than prototyping and sharing a bold idea and hearing: “We need that! Let’s make it happen!”

Listen first

User experience is highly focused on empathy for users, yet we’re often so focused on people using our products that we don’t take the time to develop empathy for our colleagues. Making sure others feel seen, heard, and understood is a significant step toward influence. Similar to how we can mistakenly make assumptions about our users, we can fall into the same trap with our peers.

Too often people equate influence with asserting their perspective. Instead, influence starts with understanding the goals, motivations and frustrations of others.

It’s easy to make incorrect conclusions, so instead of rushing to make a point, start out by listening to your colleagues. Showing the courtesy of listening often begets reciprocity, and makes others more receptive to your perspective.

Our discipline is founded on exploring human connections and motivations through empathy and listening. Now you can use those tools to build influence, whether or not you work in UX.

Finding “A Space for Being” at Salone del Mobile in Milan

Do you have favorite music that helps you unwind after a long day? Is there a particular scent that transports you back to your childhood? Or does a soft blanket on your lap help you feel calmer as you sit down to read?

These reactions are our bodies’ responses to our surroundings, whether it's something we see, touch, smell, taste or hear. Designers intuitively consider these sensory inputs to evoke certain feelings in people. Neuroaesthetics, a scientific field of study that explores the impact of aesthetic experiences on human biology, offers insight into which inputs evoke specific responses. It’s the reason your heart rate may change when you touch certain fabrics and why your energy level could shift based on the colors around you.

Neuroaesthetics gives scientific backing to what designers have always known: design matters. It’s because of this intuition that our team of hardware designers built our Made by Google products using certain colors, like the Not Pink hue option for Pixel 3 phones, and specific textures, like the fabric base on the Google Home Hub. We always strive to build products that fit seamlessly into your life, and make you feel “at ease.”  

Today, we’re opening “A Space for Being,” our exhibit at the design conference Salone del Mobile Milano, that explores this connection and endeavors to make the impact of design more visible.

The exhibit, built in conjunction with Muuto Design, Reddymade Architecture and the International Arts + Mind Lab at John Hopkins University, is made up of three spaces furnished to look like rooms in a home. However, there is more than meets the eye in the overall design experience.

Each space features a distinct look, feel, scent and sound, complete with unique textures, colors and design elements. As attendees walk through the spaces, they’ll wear a specially-made wristband that measures biological responses such as heart activity, breathing rate, skin temperature, skin conductivity and motion. At the end, before each guest’s data is deleted, they’ll see a visual representation of their response to each room and receive a customized readout that suggests which space made them feel most “at ease.”


Take a look at some of our spaces in the photos above, and think about what makes yours “A Space for Being.”

Build your next iOS and Android app with Flutter

Mobile development is full of compromises. When you’re building a new app, you’re often forced into a difficult choice: do you build the same app twice—once for iOS, once for Android—so that you have a high quality experience for both platforms? Or do you create one app from a shared codebase that works across both platforms, but doesn't have the performance or user experience you were hoping for? Flutter offers a third way: enabling high-quality user experiences with excellent performance, along with letting you express your designers’ intent and share a common codebase.

Whether you're an entrepreneur with a new app idea, a developer who’s frustrated by the edit-compile-debug cycle of building an app, or a designer who wants to be able to iterate on new design concepts, here are a few reasons why you should consider creating your next app with Flutter.

Beautifully-designed apps on each platform

Creating app designs can involve trade-offs between the creative intent of a designer and the reality of what actually goes into production. Mobile designers and developers often work in different worlds, separated by a hard boundary between the different tools that they use and challenges with iterating on a design during the development process. Sometimes the designer’s vision is compromised by limitations in the APIs or framework the developer uses; sometimes, visual polish gets deferred until “later” because of other development work (and “later” often means “never” in practice).

Two mobile phone screens showing the differences between what was designed, and what was sent into production.

With Flutter, you have control over every pixel on the screen from the beginning, including a full set of widgets that deliver pixel-perfect experiences on both iOS and Android. Designers are using Flutter to create attractive experiences like Reflectly, the number one journaling app on the Apple app store:

The user interface of Reflectly, a journaling app.

There are also some design tools made for Flutter—like 2Dimensions Flare, which you can use to build animations and incorporate them into any app with a single line of code. Here’s an example of a custom animation built with Flare that interactively follows your typing at login:

A mobile log-in screen displaying a bear who follows your cursor as it moves across the screen.

You can find more details about this example here.

And Supernova, a design-to-code tool, recently announced support for exporting Sketch designs directly to Flutter, allowing users of this popular design and wire-framing tool to turn their ideas directly into code.

Fast apps on each platform

Rather than introducing a layer of abstraction between your code and the underlying operating system, Flutter apps are native apps—meaning they compile directly to both iOS and Android devices.

Flutter’s programming language, Dart, is designed around the needs of apps that are created for global audiences. It’s easy to learn, contains a comprehensive set of libraries and packages that reduce the amount of code you have to write and is built for developer performance. When you’re ready to release your app, you can compile your code directly to the ARM machine code of your phone—meaning what you write is exactly what appears on the device—so you can harness the full power of your phone, rather than using a language like JavaScript that needs a separate engine to run.

A side-by-side comparison of two mobile screens showing Flutter rendering animations on the phone in real-time.

Flutter rendering animations on the phone in real-time.

Flutter isn’t a games engine, but it brings games-level performance to your application. Every pixel in Flutter is drawn with the Skia graphics engine: the same hardware-accelerated engine that powers Android and Chrome. This combination enables fast, glitch-free performance for apps—meaning that apps can operate on a phone's screen at 60 frames per second—which will never feel sluggish, even on a slower device.

Productive app creation on each platform

If you’re a mobile app developer, you might feel like you spend more time waiting than coding. When you make a change to your code, you have to recompile it, deploy it to a mobile phone and then bring the app back into the same state it was in before you made the change to see the results. By contrast, Flutter introduces a new capability called Stateful Hot Reload, which transforms this development cycle, letting you implement changes in milliseconds—not minutes. Stateful Hot Reload also allows better collaboration between developers and designers when they want to improve the app design and immediately see the effects.

Two side-by-side screens show how an app’s user interface and logic are updated in the app without the need for recompilation.

Changes to an app’s user interface and logic are updated in the app without the need for recompilation.

Teams using Stateful Hot Reload report major gains to their productivity when making apps. Combining the quick turnaround on changes with the ability to ship for both iOS and Android, we’ve seen apps from brands like Abbey Road Studios, Hamilton and Reflectly go from writing their first line of code to a published app in just weeks.

Get started today

We just launched version 1.2 of Flutter at Mobile World Congress 2019. We encourage you to try Flutter by visiting flutter.dev. You’ll find all the resources you need to get started including videos, codelabs, case studies, documentation and community links.

Google Play services discontinuing updates for API levels 14 and 15

Posted by Sam Spencer, Technical Program Manager, Google Play

The Android Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) platform is seven years old and the active device count has been below 1% for some time. Consequently, we are deprecating support for ICS in future releases of Google Play services. For devices running ICS, the Google Play Store will no longer update Play Services APK beyond version 14.7.99.

What does this mean as an Application developer:

The Google Play services SDK contains the interfaces to the functionality provided by the Google Play services APK, running as background services. The functionality required by the current, released SDK versions is already present on ICS devices with Google Play services and will continue to work without change.

With the SDK version changes earlier this year, each library can be independently released and may update its own minSdkVersion. Individual libraries are not required to change based on this deprecation. Newer SDK components may continue to support API levels 14 and 15 but many will update to require the higher API level. For applications that support API level 16 or greater, you will not need to make any changes to your build. For applications that support API levels 14 or 15, you may continue to build and publish your app to devices running ICS, but you will encounter build errors when updating to newer SDK versions. The error will look like this:

Error:Execution failed for task ':app:processDebugManifest'.
> Manifest merger failed : uses-sdk:minSdkVersion 14 cannot be smaller than version 16 declared in library [com.google.android.gms:play-services-FOO:16.X.YY]
        Suggestion: use tools:overrideLibrary="com.google.android.gms:play_services" to force usage

Unfortunately, the stated suggestion will not help you successfully run your app on older devices. In order to use the newer SDK, you will need to use one of the following options:

1. Target API level 16 as the minimum supported API level.

This is the recommended course of action. To discontinue support for API levels that will no longer receive Google Play services updates, simply increase the minSdkVersion value in your app's build.gradle to at least 16. If you update your app in this way and publish it to the Play Store, users of devices with less than that level of support will not be able to see or download the update. However, they will still be able to download and use the most recently published version of the app that does target their device.

A very small percentage of all Android devices are using API levels less than 16. You can read more about the current distribution of Android devices. We believe that many of these old devices are not actively being used.

If your app still has a significant number of users on older devices, you can use multiple APK support in Google Play to deliver an APK that uses Google Play services 14.7.99. This is described below.

2. Build multiple APKs to support devices with an API level less than 16.

Along with some configuration and code management, you can build multiple APKs that support different minimum API levels, with different versions of Google Play services. You can accomplish this with build variants in Gradle. First, define build flavors for legacy and newer versions of your app. For example, in your build.gradle, define two different product flavors, with two different compile dependencies for the stand-in example play-services-FOO component:

productFlavors {
    legacy {
        minSdkVersion 14
        versionCode 1401  // Min API level 14, v01
    }
    current {
        minSdkVersion 16
        versionCode 1601  // Min API level 16, v01
    }
}

dependencies {
    legacyCompile 'com.google.android.gms:play-services-FOO:16.0.0'
    currentCompile 'com.google.android.gms:play-services-FOO:17.0.0'
}

In the above situation, there are two product flavors being built against two different versions of play-services-FOO. This will work fine if only APIs are called that are available in the 16.0.0 library. If you need to call newer APIs made available with 17.0.0, you will have to create your own compatibility library for the newer API calls so that they are only built into the version of the application that can use them:

  1. Declare a Java interface that exposes the higher-level functionality you want to perform that is only available in current versions of Play services.
  2. Build two Android libraries that implement that interface. The "current" implementation should call the newer APIs as desired. The "legacy" implementation should no-op or otherwise act as desired with older versions of Play services. The interface should be added to both libraries.
  3. Conditionally compile each library into the app using "legacyCompile" and "currentCompile" dependencies as illustrated for play-services-FOO above.
  4. In the app's code, call through to the compatibility library whenever newer Play APIs are required.

After building a release APK for each flavor, you then publish them both to the Play Store, and the device will update with the most appropriate version for that device. Read more about multiple APK support in the Play Store.

The quest for friction-free products: World Usability Day

World Usability Day is a one-day, global celebration that brings together design professionals, developers and product creators to humanize products and advocate for making them easier to use. This year, Google is celebrating with an extra emphasis on Digital Wellbeing.

Teams across Google have been working to make products more respectful of people’s time and attention. We are learning how to help people have better relationships with the technology in their lives, and now we’re sharing that information with you.

Developers from Jordan discussing their app design

Developers from Jordan discuss app design. 

For World Usability Day, 40 Google designers and local experts will speak at select DevFest events in nearly 20 countries throughout the month of November, sharing knowledge about Digital Wellbeing, design sprints, visual design, interaction design, front-end development, user research and more. We hope to help designers, engineers and technology professionals create beautiful, simple and delightful user experiences that put people first.

Let us know how you’re celebrating World Usability Day by tweeting at @GoogleDesign with #GWUD2018.

From design to development, user feedback shapes Google’s approach to accessibility

It’s a hot day in Jakarta, Indonesia, and the Google Accessibility User Experience team is being shown around the city. Their goal for the next 10 days is to understand the daily experience of various people living with disabilities in this city of more than 10 million people. Notebooks are out, cameras are rolling and Rachmad (a pseudonym), a student who is blind, is eager to share some of his experiences with the team to help us build products that help solve everyday obstacles for him and others.

jakarta research study

The Google Accessibility team's research study in Jakarta was aimed at understanding the experience of people living with disabilities there

As the group approaches a bus stop, Rachmad begins asking for help from passersby. A Jakarta local tells him which bus stop he’s at and where it will take him. He turns to the Google Accessibility team and says “Yeah, I kind of have to trust them and hope they are telling the truth.”

After a short bus ride and a long walk, the team returns to Rachmad’s home, where he shows them the four mobile devices he owns, each running different versions of operating systems depending on the task. A researcher notices he’s active within multiple online accessibility support communities and asks him about it. “Sometimes it can be difficult finding help for assistive tools. We try and help each other any way we can,” says Rachmad. 

This is a user research field study and it’s demonstrating one of Google’s key values: Focus on the user and all else will follow. User research is core to success throughout a product’s life cycle, and fundamental to creating a product that works for as many people as possible, including people with disabilities. From defining product vision to development and onwards, here's how the Google Accessibility team uses research to ensure our products are more inclusive:

Define the product vision

No matter what the product or service is, it’s important to first understand what problems need solving and how the current solutions could be improved. Observing and talking to a diverse set of users with and without disabilities about their challenges, needs, and workarounds can provide richer insights and drive designs that all users may benefit from. Identifying these insights during early brainstorms and design sprints can help approach problems from different perspectives and lead to more creative solutions.

Design with accessibility in mind

The insights gained from observing users can influence all aspects of design including interaction, visual, motion, and writing. Google’s Material Design Accessibility Guidelines and Designing for Global Accessibility principles summarize fundamental principles that help create more accessible products. For example, ensuring there is good contrast between text and the background will help people with low vision or people trying to read a phone screen in the sun. Tools like the Material Color Tool can help make choosing more accessible color palettes easier.

GoogleMaterialdesign_accessibility guidelines.png

Google’s Material Design Accessibility Guidelines provide guidance on accessible design, such as ensuring enough contrast between text and background

Our team often says that "accessible design is just good design." Indeed, if you look at the bigger picture, the goal of creating products is to help people create things, find things, watch things—in short, to accomplish things. Why would any product team want to make it more challenging for a user to accomplish their goals? That's why we encourage teams to use the accessibility design guidelines to influence early design choices. Like most things worth doing, designing with accessibility in mind takes practice and work. But it's key to designing a robust user experience for all.

Develop and iterate

Throughout the design and development of a product, there are many opportunities to get additional input from diverse users. Any type of evaluative research, like usability studies, can be made more inclusive by testing with people with and without disabilities. At this stage, teams can gain more specific insights on the actual experience for the user. For example, an application could present a notification for a longer period so that it doesn’t disappear too quickly for someone with a learning disability or someone who was simply too distracted to read it. While design guidelines can help a product with fundamental accessibility, nothing substitutes for actually watching a person using a screen reader, switch access device, or other assistive technology to truly understand the quality of the user experience.

After a product launches

Once a product launches, teams can use feedback surveys, app ratings, customer support calls and emails to get a wealth of qualitative input. And filtering this feedback by users with accessibility needs can continue to paint the picture of their full experience.

This is also the perfect time to stop and understand what benefits were gained from designing inclusively from the beginning, and to apply lessons learned to the next product development cycle. Over time, it can become second nature to design inclusively.

Products are a product of user feedback

Returning to our researchers in Jakarta: After they came back from their trip, they worked to bring awareness to their findings by sharing insights and solutions with other teams at Google, including the Next Billion Users group to help them think about accessibility for people in emerging markets. Rachmad’s comments about how it can be difficult finding help for assistive tools informed the creation of a new Google support team dedicated to helping people with disabilities who have questions on assistive technology or accessibility within Google's products. On a product level, the Jakarta team provided valuable input for the group behind Lookout, an app coming soon to the U.S. that helps people who are blind and visually impaired learn about their surroundings. Once available, people like Rachmad will hear cues from their Android phones, helping them gain more independence.

Focusing on accessibility from the beginning can influence product direction as well as develop robust insights that teams can learn from and build upon in future work—all in an effort to effectively build for everyone.  If you’re interested in helping shape the future of accessibility at Google, sign up to participate in future user studies.

The accessibility team helping make our products work for everyone

At the end of 2017, the Google Primer team contacted Google's Central Accessibility team. They wanted feedback on the accessibility of their app—but also input on whether it was useful for people with disabilities. This kicked off a larger conversation. The Primer app is used by business owners, startups and marketers to learn new business and marketing skills. As the two teams discussed, they wondered, “What if we don’t just improve the accessibility of our own app, but also create brand new lessons in Primer to teach businesses and app developers how to build their websites and apps with accessibility in mind?” Building products that don’t consider a diverse range of needs could mean missing a substantial group of potential users and customers. For business owners particularly, it’s not just the right thing to do, it’s also good for business.


Fast forward to this May, when Google Primer introduced a new version of the app, designed to be more accessible and usable for people with disabilities. At the same time, they launched new accessibility lessons to help others do the same. These lessons have been used by business owners, developers, and marketers around the world to learn how to better serve their customers with disabilities.


This kind of partnership is at the heart of the work the Central Accessibility Team does to make Google’s products more accessible to the more than 1 billion people in the world living with a disability. Making accessibility a core consideration from the earliest stage of product design results in better outcomes that improve lives. And as we mark Disability Awareness Month we’re  shining a spotlight on this team and other accessibility efforts across Google.

The Central Accessibility Team spans many roles: software engineers, product and program managers, user experience designers and researchers, testers and others. Like many teams across Google, we have team members with and without disabilities. Our work covers a diverse set of areas including:

  • Providing guidance:We offer advice and training to all Google product teams on how to incorporate accessibility into how we design, build, and test our products.

  • Incorporating accessibility:We include accessibility into software development platforms and guidelines, such as our Android Accessibility Developer Docs.

  • Building better products:We build automated testing and analysis tools that Google product teams (and external developers!) can use to check for common accessibility issues, and we also build products directly for end users with disabilities. As part of this we hope to empower Google's teams to be champions of accessibility (as with Primer), and even potentially inspire third parties.

  • Listening to our community:We invite people to participate in user research in order to develop a deeper understanding on how usable our products are and ways to improve them. We also partner with organizations outside of Google to collaborate on joint initiatives and user training.

Some examples of our work across the company include captioning over 1 billion YouTube videos, building an out-of-the-box screen reader for Chrome (ChromeVox), developing a suite of accessibility tools for Android and many more.

YouTube Captions.png

Screenshot of automatic captions on a YouTube video

More recently, we’ve announced Lookout, an app to help people who are blind learn about their surroundings. Voice Access is a new accessibility service for Android that lets you use your Android device without touching the screen. We’ve also introduced a dedicated Disability Support team available to help answer questions about assistive features and functionalities within Google products.

Lookout Snapshot.png

Screenshots of the Lookout app’s features and object identification

Accessibility is a wider field than you might think—it’s not just for people with permanent disabilities. We also need to consider people who have a temporary impairment, for example, a broken leg and have difficulty getting around, or people who are doing everyday things like driving a car or holding groceries in both hands and need to perform a task.

And let’s not forget that products created for accessibility have the potential to become useful for everyone. Inventions like the typewriter, books on tape, closed captions, voice-enabled TV and voice controls were all initially meant to focus on people with a disability, and found a much broader use case. This goes to show that the accessibility problems of today can lead to the technology breakthroughs of tomorrow.

The Central Accessibility team is passionate about Google's products and driven by the thought of a world made for everyone, without limits or barriers. But at Google, accessibility is everyone’s responsibility. And to see how we’re living up to that responsibility, stay tuned for more insights and news over the coming month.

Emo-gee, that’s a cool job. Meet the woman who designs Google’s emoji.

Editor’s Note: The She Word is a Keyword series all about dynamic and creative women at Google. Most of us use emoji to communicate on a daily basis, but there’s only one day a year to celebrate those delightful little characters. Today is World Emoji Day, so we sat down with Jennifer Daniel—who heads up design for Google’s emoji. Among other slightly more serious things, we chatted about her favorite emoji, how emoji communication compares to the era of Shakespeare and why the female influences in her life rule all.

JD

How do you explain your job at a dinner party?
I tell people I work on emoji, those tiny smiley faces that are on your phone. And the response is usually, “Really? That’s a job?”

It is a job, although the majority of my time is spent managing the art team within the “Expressions” group, which creates gifs, camera effects, stickers and other fun experiences for Gboard, Android Messages and Pixel.

What’s one habit that makes you successful?
Focus on finding good people to work with. Success follows people who work well together.

What advice do you have for women starting out in their careers?
Just be you. As women, we’re told over and over again to lean in, but that frequently puts us in positions that are structurally unsuited and hostile. This touches on every part of the job, even seemingly trivial things like tone in emails.

Research has shown that women don’t use emoji professionally or aren’t friendly in emails, because they’re taken less seriously if they do. I understand and also reject it … our humanity is essential to effective communication. Don't use enough emoji and you're seen as hostile. Use too many and you're seen as unprofessional. It's a lose lose. So, forget it. Just be yourself.

dancer

One of Jennifer's illustrations of the dancer emoji. 

Who has been a strong female influence in your life?
In the industries I work in, there’s a lack of women in what my friends and I call the “just-ahead-of-me group.” So, I’d say my peers are the strongest influences in my life. The artists, writers and designers I’ve met along the way are incredibly motivating and inspiring. And, for those moments where things feel highly discouraging, well, I hope everyone has friends who pump them up like mine do, because it rules.

What’s your most-used emoji?
Lately instead of using the standard smiley 😀 (which is the 10th most popular emoji by the way … the most popular is ), I’ve been using the cowboy 🤠. I recently retired the party popper 🎉 for the saxophone 🎷. Everytime I use it, I can faintly hear Lisa Simpson...

Your work is transforming the way we communicate with each other. Do you think we’re losing anything with this shift to communicating in gifs, emoji and memes?
Is the way we communicate now better than the era of Shakespeare?

Hey, I’m asking the questions!
I just mean … the way we communicate is a reflection of the time period we’re in. And we live in an era were we communicate more with the written word than ever before. Language has existed for at least 80,000 years but it first arose as speech. If humanity existed for 24 hours, let’s say writing only came around 11:07 p.m. So first there was speech, then writing, and now, we have emoji.

Some expressions are better suited for images than they are with text. I can’t tell you what 🐒🐒🎷🐬translates into words exactly, but damned if it isn’t the perfect response when a friend texts me that our plans are on for tonight. Emoji become inside jokes, slang, memes. Like language, it’s fluid. We all intuitively know when to call someone versus suggest a video chat, when to write an email or send them a text. It’s important to know who you’re speaking to and the best way to connect with them.

How did you first discover your interest in design?
Hard to say. It could be when I realized my drawings could make my classmates laugh. I was in second grade and I had just moved from the East Coast to the Midwest and it was the first time I really remember feeling heard. I truly connected with people in a way I hadn’t previously.

You have three-year old twins! What have they taught you about achieving balance in your life?
Work-life balance is when everyone wants your attention at the same time (ha, sort of kidding). At times my personal life is the most important thing and other times I need to be very focused on work. This balance, which is more of a dance, allows room for things to happen even when you least expect it, like when I get a call from the daycare and I have to drop everything to attend to … let’s just say, a pile of 💩. I’ve learned over time that you can’t be prepared for everything and that’s perfectly okay.  

baby gif

Just another day at the office. 

How do you ensure that everyone is represented in emoji?
We do our best to surround ourselves with experts and ask a lot of questions. Designing emoji (and stickers, and gifs and camera effects) for a global audience requires a certain level of humility and curiosity about the world.

And how does that work from a design perspective?
As a principle, we want to create images that are iconic and timeless. Stylistically,the more abstract an emoji is, the more you can project yourself onto it. On the flip side, the more detail a drawing has, the more people fixate on how real or accurate it is. Taking detail away from an emoji can offer more opportunity for interpretation and personality, making emoji an extension of your own. I prefer to think of Google’s emoji like words—keep them as abstract as possible.

What’s next for your team?
This week we’re releasing a series of animated stickers in Gboard and Messages that bring back our favorite blob emoji. And every month we launch more stickers and GIF effects in Gboard. I love seeing what people make, so please share your creations!