Tag Archives: mobile

Mobile-First indexing, structured data, images, and your site

It's been two years since we started working on "mobile-first indexing" - crawling the web with smartphone Googlebot, similar to how most users access it. We've seen websites across the world embrace the mobile web, making fantastic websites that work on all kinds of devices. There's still a lot to do, but today, we're happy to announce that we now use mobile-first indexing for over half of the pages shown in search results globally.

Checking for mobile-first indexing

In general, we move sites to mobile-first indexing when our tests assure us that they're ready. When we move sites over, we notify the site owner through a message in Search Console. It's possible to confirm this by checking the server logs, where a majority of the requests should be from Googlebot Smartphone. Even easier, the URL inspection tool allows a site owner to check how a URL from the site (it's usually enough to check the homepage) was last crawled and indexed.

If your site uses responsive design techniques, you should be all set! For sites that aren't using responsive web design, we've seen two kinds of issues come up more frequently in our evaluations:

Missing structured data on mobile pages

Structured data is very helpful to better understand the content on your pages, and allows us to highlight your pages in fancy ways in the search results. If you use structured data on the desktop versions of your pages, you should have the same structured data on the mobile versions of the pages. This is important because with mobile-first indexing, we'll only use the mobile version of your page for indexing, and will otherwise miss the structured data.

Testing your pages in this regard can be tricky. We suggest testing for structured data in general, and then comparing that to the mobile version of the page. For the mobile version, check the source code when you simulate a mobile device, or use the HTML generated with the mobile-friendly testing tool. Note that a page does not need to be mobile-friendly in order to be considered for mobile-first indexing.

Missing alt-text for images on mobile pages

The value of alt-attributes on images ("alt-text") is a great way to describe images to users with screen-readers (which are used on mobile too!), and to search engine crawlers. Without alt-text for images, it's a lot harder for Google Images to understand the context of images that you use on your pages.

Check "img" tags in the source code of the mobile version for representative pages of your website. As above, the source of the mobile version can be seen by either using the browser to simulate a mobile device, or by using the Mobile-Friendly test to check the Googlebot rendered version. Search the source code for "img" tags, and double-check that your page is providing appropriate alt-attributes for any that you want to have findable in Google Images.

For example, that might look like this:

With alt-text (good!):
<img src="cute-puppies.png" alt="A photo of cute puppies on a blanket">

Without alt-text:
<img src="sad-puppies.png">

It's fantastic to see so many great websites that work well on mobile! We're looking forward to being able to index more and more of the web using mobile-first indexing, helping more users to search the web in the same way that they access it: with a smartphone. We’ll continue to monitor and evaluate this change carefully. If you have any questions, please drop by our Webmaster forums or our public events.


Flutter 1.0: Google’s Portable UI Toolkit

Posted by Tim Sneath, Group Product Manager for Flutter

Today, at Flutter Live, we're announcing Flutter 1.0, the first stable release of Google's UI toolkit for creating beautiful, native experiences for iOS and Android from a single codebase.

Cross-platform mobile development today is full of compromise. Developers are forced to choose between either building the same app multiple times for multiple operating systems, or to accept a lowest common denominator solution that trades native speed and accuracy for portability. With Flutter, we believe we have a solution that gives you the best of both worlds: hardware-accelerated graphics and UI, powered by native ARM code, targeting both popular mobile operating systems.

Introducing Flutter

Flutter doesn't replace the traditional Apple and Android app models for building mobile apps; instead, it's an app engine that you can either embed into an existing app or use for an entirely new app.

We think of the characteristics of Flutter along four dimensions:

  1. Flutter enables you to build beautiful apps. We want to enable designers to deliver their full creative vision without being forced to water it down due to limitations of the underlying framework. Flutter lets you control every pixel on the screen, and its powerful compositing capabilities let you overlay and animate graphics, video, text and controls without limitation. Flutter includes a full set of widgets that deliver pixel-perfect experiences on both iOS and Android. And it enables the ultimate realization of Material Design, Google's open design system for digital experiences.
  2. Flutter is fast. It's powered by the same hardware-accelerated Skia 2D graphics engine that underpins Chrome and Android. We architected Flutter to be able to support glitch-free, jank-free graphics at the native speed of your device. Flutter code is powered by the world-class Dart platform, which enables compilation to native 32-bit and 64-bit ARM code for iOS and Android.
  3. Flutter is productive. Flutter introduces stateful hot reload, a revolutionary new capability for mobile developers and designers to iterate on their apps in real time. With stateful hot reload, you can make changes to the code of your app and see the results instantly without restarting your app or losing its state. Stateful hot reload transforms the way developers build an app -- and in user surveys, developers say it makes their development cycle three times more productive.
  4. Lastly, Flutter is open. Flutter is an open source project with a BSD-style license, and includes the contributions of hundreds of developers from around the world. In addition, there's a vibrant ecosystem of thousands of plug-ins. And because every Flutter app is a native app that uses the standard Android and iOS build tools, you can access everything from the underlying operating system, including code and UI written in Kotlin or Java on Android, and Swift or Objective-C on iOS.

Put this all together, combine it with best-in-class tooling for Visual Studio Code, Android Studio, IntelliJ or the programmer's editor of your choice, and you have Flutter -- a development environment for building beautiful native experiences for iOS or Android from a single codebase.

Flutter Growth and Momentum

We announced the first beta of Flutter at Mobile World Congress ten months ago, and we've been excited to see how quickly it has been adopted by the broader community, as evidenced by the thousands of Flutter apps that are already published to the Apple and Google Play stores even before our 1.0 release. It's clear that developers are ready for a new approach to UI development.

Internally, Flutter is being used at Google for a wide array of products, with Google Ads already having switched to Flutter for their iOS and Android app. And even before 1.0, a wide range of global customers including Abbey Road Studios, Alibaba, Capital One, Groupon, Hamilton, JD.com, Philips Hue, Reflectly, and Tencent are developing or shipping apps with Flutter.

Michael Jones, Senior Director of Engineering from the Capital One team, says the following about their experiences with Flutter:

"We are excited by Flutter's unique take on high-performing cross-platform development. Our engineers have appreciated the rapid development promise and hot reload capabilities, and over the past year we have seen tremendous progress in the framework and especially the native integration story.

"Flutter can allow Capital One to think of features not in an 'iOS or Android-first' fashion, but rather in a true mobile-first model. We are excited to see Flutter 1.0 and continue to be impressed with the pace of advancement and the excitement in the engineering community."

At the Flutter Live event today, the popular payment service Square announced two new Flutter SDKs that make it easy to accept payments for goods and services with Flutter, whether in-person using a Square payment reader or by taking payments inside a mobile app. Square demonstrated an example of using their payments SDK using an app from Collins Family Orchards, a family farm that grows and sells fruit in farmers markets around the Pacific Northwest.

The developer of the Collins Family Orchards app, Dean Papastrat, had this to say about his experience:

"I was blown away by the speed of all the animations and transitions in production builds. As a web developer, it was super easy to make the transition to Flutter, and I can't believe I was able to build a fully working app that can take payments in just a week."

Also at Flutter Live, 2Dimensions announced the immediate availability of Flare, a remarkable new tool for designers to create vector animations that can be embedded directly into a Flutter app and manipulated with code. Flare eliminates the need to design in one app, animate in another, then convert all of that to device-specific assets and code.

Animations built with Flare can be embedded into an existing Flutter app as a widget, allowing them to participate in the full compositor and be overlaid with other text, graphical layers or even UI widgets. Integrating in this way frees animations from the 'black box' limitations of other architectures, and allows ongoing collaboration between designers and developers right up to the completion of the app. Such tight integration between Flutter and Flare provides a uniquely compelling offering for digital designers and animators who want to create highly-polished mobile experiences.

Another partner who has bet on Flutter is Nevercode, a fast-growing provider of continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) tooling for mobile apps. At Flutter Live, they announced Codemagic, a new tool designed specifically for Flutter to make it easy to automate the process of building and packaging Flutter apps for both Android and iOS from a single automation. Available today in beta, Codemagic allows you to select a GitHub repo containing a Flutter project, and with just a few clicks, create continuous build flows that run tests, and generate binary app bundles that you can upload to the Apple and Google Play stores.

We put together a short video to highlight the range and variety of the apps developers have been building with Flutter since the beta:

New Features in Flutter 1.0

Since the first beta, we've been working to add features and polish to Flutter. In particular, we rounded out our support for pixel-perfect iOS apps with new widgets; added support for nearly twenty different Firebase services; and worked on improving performance and reducing the size of Flutter apps. We've also closed out thousands of issues based on feedback from the community.

Flutter also includes the latest version of the Dart platform, 2.1, an update to Dart 2 that offers smaller code size, faster type checks, and better usability for type errors. Dart 2.1 also has new language features to improve productivity when building user experiences. Developers who have already adopted Dart 2.1 tell us they're seeing significant speed improvements just by switching to the latest engine:

While the primary focus of the 1.0 release is bug fixes and stabilization, we're also introducing previews of two major new features for developers to try out in preview mode that we anticipate will ship in our next quarterly release in February 2019: Add to App and platform views.

Add to App

When we first built Flutter, we focused on productivity for the scenario where someone is building a new application from scratch. But of course, not everyone has the luxury of being able to start with a clean slate. Talking to some of our larger customers, it was clear that they wanted to use Flutter for new user journeys or features within an existing application, or to convert their existing application to Flutter in stages.

The architecture of Flutter supports this model well: after all, every Flutter app includes a host Android and iOS container. But we've been working to make it easier to incrementally adopt Flutter by updating our templates, tooling and guidance for existing apps. We've made it easier to share assets between Flutter and host code. And we've also reworked the tooling to make it easy to attach to an existing Flutter process without launching the debugger with the application.

We will continue to work to make this experience even better. Even though a number of customers are already using our guidance on Add to App successfully, we're continuing to add samples and expand support for complex scenarios. In the meantime, our instructions for adding Flutter to existing apps are on our wiki, and you can track the remaining work on the GitHub project board.

Platform Views

While Add To App is useful as a way to gradually introduce Flutter to an existing application, sometimes it's useful to go the other way round and embed an Android or iPhone platform control in a Flutter app.

So we've introduced platform view widgets (AndroidView and UiKitView) that let you embed this kind of content on each platform. We've been previewing Android support for a couple of months, but now we're expanding support to iOS, and starting to add plug-ins like Google Maps and WebView that take advantage of this.

Like other components, our platform view widgets participate in the composition model, which means that you can integrate it with other Flutter content. For example, in the screenshot above, the floating action button in the bottom right corner is a Flutter widget that has background color with 50% alpha. This demonstrates the unique architectural advantages of Flutter well.

While this work is ready for developers to try out, we're continuing to work on improving performance and device compatibility, so we recommend caution if deploying apps that depend on PlatformViews. We're continuing to actively optimize platform views and expect them to be ready for production in time for our next quarterly update.

Flutter Beyond Mobile

The primary target for Flutter has so far been iOS and Android. Yet our ambitions for Flutter extend beyond mobile to a broader set of platforms. Indeed, from the outset Flutter was architected as a portable UI toolkit that is flexible enough to go wherever pixels are painted.

Some of this work has already been taking place in the open. Flutter Desktop Embedding is an early-stage project that brings Flutter to desktop operating systems including Windows, MacOS, and Linux. We also recently published informal details of using Flutter on Raspberry Pi, as a way to demonstrate Flutter embedding support to smaller-scale devices that may not include a full desktop environment.

This week, at Flutter Live, we gave the first sneak peek of an experimental project we're working on in the labs that significantly expands where Flutter can run.

Hummingbird is a web-based implementation of the Flutter runtime that takes advantage of the capability of the Dart platform to compile not just to native ARM code but also to JavaScript. This enables Flutter code to run on the standards-based web without change.

We have a separate blog article on Medium that describes the technical implementation details of Hummingbird. And we'll have a lot more to share on Hummingbird at Google I/O in 2019: hope to see you there!

Of course, mobile remains our immediate priority, and you can expect to see the bulk of our investment in these core mobile scenarios over the coming months.

Conclusion

With the release of Flutter 1.0, we've established a new 'stable' channel, in addition to the existing beta, dev, and master channels. The stable channel updates less often than other channels, but we have a higher confidence in its quality since builds have already been vetted through the other channels. We anticipate that we'll update our stable channel on a quarterly basis with our most battle-tested builds.

You can download Flutter 1.0 from our website at https://flutter.io, where you can also find documentation for developers transitioning from other frameworks, code labs, a cookbook of common samples, and technical videos.

We owe a particular debt to the early adopters who have joined us on the journey so far, providing feedback, identifying issues, creating content, and generally shaping the product. The Flutter community is one of our greatest assets as a project: a welcoming, diverse, helpful group of individuals who volunteer selflessly because they also care about this open source project. Thank you!

Flutter is ready for you. What will you build?

Notifying users of unclear subscription pages

Every month, millions of Chrome users encounter pages with insufficient mobile subscription information. Surprising charges that come from unclear communication are a poor user experience. That’s why starting from Chrome 71 (December 2018), Chrome will show a warning before these pages, so that users can make informed decisions when signing up to mobile based subscription services. Users will be offered the choice to proceed to the page or go back if they were unaware that they were entering a billing page.

Unclear mobile subscriptions


Picture this: Andrea is browsing the web on a mobile connection to access a gaming page and they’re presented with a page that asks them for their mobile phone details.




They fill in the blanks with their mobile number and press Continue, and get access to the content.

The next month, the phone bill arrives and they see a charge they were not expecting. Was the subscription to the online gaming service really that expensive? Did they really agree to pay that specific price for the service? How much did they agree to be charged to access the content?

Clearer billing information for Chrome users


We want to make sure Chrome users understand when they are going through a billing flow and trust that they’ll be able to make informed decisions while browsing the web.

To adequately inform users, it’s important to provide a sufficient level of details within the billing page as outlined by our new mobile billing charges best practices. Pages that answer positively to the following questions generally provide sufficient information for users:
  • Is the billing information visible and obvious to users? For example, adding no subscription information on the subscription page or hiding the information is a bad start because users should have access to the information when agreeing to subscribe.
  • Can customers easily see the costs they’re going to incur before accepting the terms? For example, displaying the billing information in grey characters over a grey background, therefore making it less readable, is not considered a good user practice.
  • Is the fee structure easily understandable? For example, the formula presented to explain how the cost of the service will be determined should be as simple and straightforward as possible.

If Chrome detects pages that don’t provide sufficient billing information to users, the following warning will be displayed to the user on Chrome mobile, Chrome desktop and Android’s WebView:



The warning will be shown to users entering unclear billing pages.


When we identify such pages, we will notify the webmaster through Search Console where there will be an option to let us know about the changes they’ve made to clarify the billing process. For websites that aren’t verified on Search Console, we will do our best to get in touch with the webmasters affected and will be available to answer questions in our public support forum available in 15 languages. Once an appeal has been sent via Search Console, we will review the changes and remove the warning accordingly.

If your billing service takes users through a clearly visible and understandable billing process as described in our best practices, you don't need to make any changes. Also, the new warning in Chrome doesn’t impact your website’s ranking in Google Search.

If you have any questions, please come and have a chat with us in the Webmaster Help Forum.


Posted by Emily Schechter‎, Chrome Security, Giacomo Gnecchi Ruscone & Badr Salmi El Idrissi, Trust & Safety

View emails from multiple accounts at once in the Gmail iOS app

You can view email from multiple accounts, be it your work or personal, G Suite or non-G Suite (even third-party IMAP accounts), in the Gmail iOS app. But you’ve traditionally needed to toggle between different inboxes to do so. To save you time, we’re now making it possible to view emails from multiple accounts in a single inbox on an iOS device—the same way you can with the Gmail Android app.


To see emails from different accounts at one time, simply select the “All Inboxes” view from the left-hand side drawer. This will show all your emails in a single list, but don’t worry—no emails will be shared between your accounts.

Launch Details
Release track:
Launching to both Rapid Release and Scheduled Release

Editions:
Available to all G Suite editions

Rollout pace:
Gradual rollout (up to 15 days for feature visibility)

Impact:
All end users

Action:
Change management suggested/FYI

More Information
Help Center: Check emails from other accounts


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Reset passwords for and lock company-owned Android devices

G Suite admins in domains with Google Mobile Management enabled can already take actions to protect the data on their users’ mobile devices. For example, they can require devices to have screen locks and wipe devices when they’re lost or stolen. With this launch, we’re giving admins additional capabilities—they can now remotely reset the password on a company-owned Android device or lock the device entirely.


Reset device password

If a user forgets their device password, you may want to reset it for them.


Check out the Help Center for instructions on how to reset the password on a user’s device.

Lock device

If a user loses their device, you may want to lock it until it’s found. This will force users to enter the device’s password before using it.


Check out the Help Center for more info on locking user devices.

Please note that the reset password and lock functions can only be used in domains that have advanced mobile management enabled.

Launch Details
Release track:
Launching to both Rapid Release and Scheduled Release

Editions:
Available to G Suite Business and Enterprise editions, as well as Cloud Identity Premium

Rollout pace:
Extended rollout (potentially longer than 15 days for feature visibility)

Impact:
Admins only

Action:
Admin action suggested/FYI

More Information
Help Center: Lock a device and reset its password


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Better insight into the managed mobile devices in your organization

As a G Suite admin, it’s important that you can easily view and obtain critical information about the mobile devices your organization manages. That’s why we’re making those details easier to find and utilize with our updated mobile device list in the Admin console.

Filter for key characteristics, take bulk actions, and more

This list, located at Device management > Mobile devices, is not only faster and easier to scan, it allows you to do the following:

  • Filter by several categories (e.g. user name, last sync date, compromised devices, etc.), and save the URL to apply the same filters later.
  • Search by keyword or serial number.
  • Add and remove columns, and increase the number of rows shown per page.
  • Download selected columns, export them to Google Sheets, and view the progress of that task.
  • Take action on multiple devices at once and directly from the device details page.

The mobile device list now shows all assigned mobile devices (both company-owned and personal) in one view.


More details about individual devices

Depending on the type of mobile management (advanced or basic) you have enabled for your organization, you can take some of the following actions when you click on a specific mobile device in the list:

  • Block, wipe, or delete the device or account.
  • See all of the apps installed on that device, and identify those that may be harmful.
  • Email the device’s user directly.
  • Learn if a device isn’t compliant and why.


Visit the Help Center to learn more about the new and improved mobile devices list, and the ways it can help you manage mobile devices in your organization.

Launch Details
Release track:
Launching to both Rapid Release and Scheduled Release

Editions:
Available to all G Suite editions

Rollout pace:
Extended rollout (potentially longer than 15 days for feature visibility)

Impact:
Admins only

Action:
Admin action suggested/FYI

More Information
Help Center: View and manage mobile devices


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Google Device Policy app ending support for iOS 8.0 soon

The next release of the Google Device Policy app (version 3.04) won’t support mobile devices running iOS version 8.0 or lower. If your organization has advanced mobile device management (MDM) enabled, your users must upgrade to iOS version 9.0 or higher to access new MDM features or if they need to download the Device Policy app for the first time.

We’re planning to release version 3.04 of the Device Policy app as early as next week. Please encourage your users to upgrade their iOS devices as soon as possible to avoid any disruption to their work.

More Information
Help Center: Minimum device requirements 

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Making it easier to set up Android devices as company-owned

When employees set up their phones and tablets as company-owned devices, they give your organization full control over those devices—allowing you to apply policies regarding app installation, network settings, security options, and more. This helps protect your users and your corporate data.

If you have advanced mobile device management but don’t register your company-owned devices in the Admin console, your users must choose to set up their devices as company-owned.

To encourage more users to make this choice, we’ll start showing the screen below to all users who add their G Suite account to a new Android device before adding their personal account.

This change will start rolling out on September 19th, 2018; please note that it may take several weeks for it to take effect for all users.


Starting on September 19th, users will be asked if they own the device they’re setting up. Unless they explicitly state that they own the device personally, ownership will be auto-assigned to your organization.

Currently, your users only see this choice if your organization has Device Owner mode enabled. That option will disappear from the Admin console on September 19th.

Note that users will only see the screen and option above on new (and recently factory-reset) devices running Android 6.0 or higher.

Allowing users to install any app from the managed Google Play store

In addition to the change outlined above, we’re making it easier to install apps on company-owned Android devices and work profiles.

Currently, you have to actively whitelist apps to make them available to your users. Starting on September 19th, users with company-owned Android devices and work profiles will be allowed to install any app from the managed Google Play store by default. If you don’t want your users to do this, you can choose to restrict app availability to whitelisted apps.

Launch Details
Release track:
Launching to both Rapid Release and Scheduled Release on September 19th, 2018

Editions:
Available to all G Suite and Cloud Identity Premium editions

Rollout pace:
Extended rollout (potentially longer than 15 days for feature visibility)

Impact:
All end users

Action:
Change management suggested/FYI

More Information
Help Center: Set up Android devices your company owns


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Links, Mobile Usability, and site management in the new Search Console

More features are coming to the new Search Console. This time we've focused on importing existing popular features from the old Search Console to the new product.

Links Report

Search Console users value the ability to see links to and within their site, as Google Search sees them. Today, we are rolling out the new Links report, which combines the functionality of the “Links to your site” and “Internal Links” reports on the old Search Console. We hope you find this useful!

Mobile Usability report

Mobile Usability is an important priority for all site owners. In order to help site owners with fixing mobile usability issues, we launched the Mobile Usability report on the new Search Console. Issue names are the same as in the old report but we now allow users to submit a validation and reindexing request when an issue is fixed, similar to other reports in the new Search Console.

Site and user management

To make the new Search Console feel more like home, we’ve added the ability to add and verify new sites, and manage your property's users and permissions, directly in new Search Console using our newly added settings page.

Keep sending feedback

As always, we would love to get your feedback through the tools directly and our help forums so please share and let us know how we're doing.


Secure corporate data on employee iOS devices with managed apps

To better protect the G Suite data stored on your employees’ personal iOS devices, you can now specify that certain iOS apps be “managed” if your domain has advanced mobile device management enabled.

If an app is managed, you can:
  • Prevent the app’s data from being backed up to iCloud.
  • Block unmanaged apps from opening managed app files.


Note that these actions will impact both personal and corporate data on managed apps. Visit the Help Center for more information on how to manage apps on iOS devices.

Designate an app as managed
When you whitelist a new app for iOS devices, you can now choose to “Make this a managed app.” Once you make the app managed, you can also select to have it automatically removed from a device if that device’s MDM profile is removed.

When you whitelist a new app for iOS devices, you can now make it “managed.”


If you previously whitelisted an app, you can make it managed by changing that app’s settings in the Admin console.
You can make an app you’ve already whitelisted managed by editing the app’s configuration in the Admin console.


User notifications and required actions
If you designate an app as managed, any users with that app downloaded will be prompted to update it in their Google Device Policy app.

Users will be prompted to update apps that are marked as managed by their admins. 

Users need to accept management of their apps or they’ll lose access to all corporate data on their phone.


If a user doesn’t take action within 12 hours of receiving the notification, they’ll receive another notification prompting them to make the required apps managed.


If a user doesn’t take action within 24 hours of receiving the notification, they’ll no longer be able to access corporate data anywhere on their device.


Note that if you make a previously managed app “unmanaged,” users will need to remove the Google Apps Device Policy Payload Profile before the app becomes unmanaged.

Launch Details
Release track:
Launching to both Rapid Release and Scheduled Release

Editions:
Available to all G Suite editions

Rollout pace:
Extended rollout (potentially longer than 15 days for feature visibility)

Impact:
Admins and end users

Action:
Admin action suggested/FYI

More Information
Help Center: Recommend and manage iOS apps


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