In July, Chrome Beta was updated with a new interface that more closely adhered to Google's new design vision - material design. Fitting with Google's occasional habit of stripping things down during major refreshes (see Google Maps on the web), many elements of the interface were sliced, rearranged, or simplified, including the tab indicator in the top right corner of the screen. Previously, the indicator showed users how many tabs were open, but after the redesign it simply displayed a square (or two stacked squares if you had multiple tabs open).
As with Holo before it, Material Design has triggered a deluge of app concepts, mockups, and fancy animations from various enthusiasts and designers in the community (myself included). A key factor that is often left out of these presentations, however, is a detailed and thoughtful explanation of design choices and UI considerations that went into the finished product.
As a designer, explanations of your design thinking are critical when presenting new designs, not just to those that would actually be building the app (they need to know the details), but to a broader audience of end users and even other designers.
Google's official Glassware selection has a new member today - Pandora. As Carl Edwards explains in a post to the official Pandora blog, the addition of Pandora to the Glassware page of Google's MyGlass interface is the result of Pandora's semi-annual 72-hour hackathon. "It was such a hit," the blog says, "that we decided to show it to Google."
In keeping with Google's UX vision for Glass, the Pandora app is exceedingly simple.
YouTube has videos. Google+ has videos. In fact, Google+ uses the YouTube backend and interface for its videos. So it makes sense that you can seamlessly move uploaded videos between the two. Except that you can't, or at least you couldn't before the latest update to the web versions of both services. You'll need to "merge" your personal YouTube channel with Google+ to take advantage, which might be a sticking point for all those YouTube users that cried foul about the whole username thing a while back.
Google is continuing to shine a brighter light on Hangouts users who are currently online. A few months ago the company brought back the green dot that used to mark online contacts in the days of Google Talk (which was replaced with a subtle green line in Hangouts). Going forward, the messenger in the web version of Gmail will contain a new tab that puts online contacts at the top. It's still possible to message friends who are offline, they're just tucked at the bottom where they're out of the way.
Google likes to have a laugh from time to time, even though sometimes the jokes are too geeky for non-programmers to grasp. Still, the teapot error page is fun even if you don't get the reference. Go to google.com/teapot and feel free to pour it out. It works best on a phone or tablet.
An increasing number of users have stumbled across a new navigation card when looking for directions using the Google Search app. Apparently the tech giant has decided to pull the switch that opens this feature up to a wider populace. The card resembles Google Maps: it provides a map with the trip drawn out, the option to select the desired mode of transportation, alternate routes to select from, and a giant blue start button for when it's time to get moving.
Gecko Design Inc. is the kind of company others look to when they have ideas that they want to turn into physical products. Google is the kind that has said ideas, and it started working with the folks at Gecko in 2013. The two hit it off so well that they started discussing the possibility of taking their relationship to the next level, and the rest, they say, is history. The tech giant will use its newly acquired talent to boost up its Google X research lab.
When you perform a Google search and an answer appears alongside the list of results, this tidbit of goodness comes thanks to the company's Knowledge Graph. It provides much of the brainpower for Google Now, pulling down information from a variety of sources such as the CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia. The thing is, Google thinks it's still too dumb, so the search giant has already started working on something better.
Update 8/21/14: Google today made the feature official by announcing it on the Inside Search blog. Head over to Search -> Settings -> Voice -> Languages to pick your languages.
Anyone who uses more than one language on a regular basis has probably felt some degree of annoyance with Google's voice search system on Android. You have to dig way into the settings to change the language, and there's no way to mix and match.