Tag Archives: Design

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!

Start making your business more accessible using Primer

Posted by Lisa Gevelber, VP Marketing Ads and Americas

Over one billion people in the world have some form of disability.

That's why we make accessibility a core consideration when we develop new products—from concept to launch and beyond. It's good for users and good for business: Building products that don't consider a diverse range of needs could mean missing a substantial group of potential users and customers.

But impairments and disabilities are as varied as people themselves. For designers, developers, marketers or small business owners, making your products and designs more accessible might seem like a daunting task. How can you make sure you're being more inclusive? Where do you start?

Today, Global Accessibility Awareness Day, we're launching a new suite of resources to help creators, marketers, and designers answer those questions and build more inclusive products and designs.

The first step is learning about accessibility. Simply start by downloading the Google Primer app and search "accessibility." You'll find five-minute lessons that help you better understand accessibility, and learn practical tips to start making your own business, products and designs more accessible, like key design principles for building a more accessible website. You may even discover that addressing accessibility issues can improve the user experience for everyone. For instance, closed captions can make your videos accessible to more people whether they have a hearing impairment or are sitting in a crowded room.

Next, visit the Google Accessibility page and discover free tools that can help you make your site or app more accessible for more people. The Android Developers site also contains a wide range of suggestions to help you improve the accessibility of your app.

We hope these resources will help you join us in designing and building for a more inclusive future. After all, an accessible web and world is a better one—both for people and for business.

"Excited to see the new lessons on accessibility that Primer launched today. They help us learn how to start making websites and products more accessible. With over 1 billion people in the world with some form of disability, building a more inclusive web is the right thing to do both for people and for business."