We were thrilled to be invited by Google to an invite-only event specifically aimed at developers working in agencies.
The main aim was to discuss best practice and help developers create better apps for their clients.
Agencies from all across Europe and Russia were invited. We sent Nick and Alistair to find out more.
The day was held at CodeNode which is the UK's largest venue dedicated to technology events and is run by Skills Matter - a community tech company who support thousands of developers passionate about software craftsmanship.
With the rooms and auditoriums having names like; 'Ctrl', 'Alt Tab' and 'Backspace' (not to mention the nine meter long 'Spacebar' serving drinks and refreshments), you knew you were right in the hustle and bustle of London’s Tech City.
As well as the main sessions that make up the rest of this post, there were also sessions on; 'Using data to drive customer investment" and '10 ways to improve your Android app performance'. Alongside these there was also a panel discussing agency anti-patterns and how to avoid the bad practices that we’ve all seen.
We were brought up to speed with 'Testing and quality; the state of the art' and some insights were shared about what makes a popular Android App.
Now to the main sessions:
The day started out with Rupert Whitehead, Developer Relations Programs Lead at Google, describing how Google was involved in the 'ecosystem' of startups, developers and agencies.
Starting with the Launchpad program g.co/launchpad, Google offers support to new startups giving them access to UX review by Google Experts and 1:1 developer e-mail support amongst other benefits.
2. Google Developer Groups
Google Developer Groups (GDGs) are for developers who are interested in Google's developer technology. Including everything from the Android, Chrome, Drive, and Google Cloud platforms, to product APIs like the Cast API, Maps API, and YouTube API.
With over 600+ groups taking place in 100+ countries, GDGs are a global community focused on developers and technical content and can take the form of meetups, tech talks, code sprints and hackathons etc.
Head on over to developers.google.com/groups to find your nearest group.
If you're here in Brighton then don't miss the Brighton Mobile Meetup we organise at meetup.com/Brighton-Mobile
3. Google Experts
The Google Experts programme is a global network of experienced product strategists, designers, developers and marketing professionals actively supporting developers, startups and companies changing the world through web and mobile applications.
The program itself is run by Google Developers, which gives Experts access to valuable know-how and a network of product, design and marketing experts within Google and the wider world.
If you fancy becoming a Google Expert, head over to developers.google.com/experts/become-an-expert for more details - there is a multi-stage evaluation process and you have to be nominated by a Google Developer!
Last but by no means least - agencies.
Google recognises the important role that agencies play in developing quality solutions for their clients; Google Developer Days (like this one) are part of Google’s ongoing commitment to partner with and support developers within agencies.
Some stats were given showing that the Android platform is thriving, including:
- Android accounts for over 80% of the global smartphone market
- There are over 1 billion+ Android devices in circulation
- 1.5 million+ Android devices are activated daily
- Over 200+ oems for Android - these are companies and businesses making products which are powered by Android
Creating Material Designs
The Material Design spec has been out for a couple of years now, but the latest and greatest can be found at design.google.com
Some highlights were:
- Marshmallow, api 23, brings a new run-time permission model which should give users greater control over the permissions they grant apps and a more seamless experience
- A new light status bar is available meaning dark icons giving designers greater flexibility
Chrome Custom Tabs
Chrome Custom Tabs provide a new & much faster way of displaying HTML content within your app.
They give apps more control over their web experience, and make transitions between native and web content more seamless without having to resort to a WebView.
Support libraries are a mechanism that delivers new designs and features to older devices because they are decoupled from the underlying platform o/s.
Three main libraries were mentioned:
- Data Binding basically provides a simpler way of hooking up your UI with underlying Java objects - bottom line: less Java, more XML.
- AppCompat is a general purpose library that brings feature parity to older platforms (think bringing Fragments to old devices)
- Design Library - shiny new design stuff gets bundled here letting you build Material Design apps more easily. Read about it here: android-developers.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/android-design-support-library
- Percentage Support Library - UI layouts can be created using percentages rather than fixed widths which will make many designers happy
New developer tools
New developer tools included:
- Vector Drawables - rather than having to package image resources as many different bitmaps, a vector graphic can be provided instead and the device will render the right sized drawable. The beta version of Android Studio will also take the vector graphic and automatically create the correct bitmaps for older devices.
- Theme Editor - soon to be released, will provide a GUI for defining and editing the colours & themes for an app.
There are many sample apps that can be downloaded showing how Material Design can be built into apps - including the Google I/O 2015 app which is open sourced.
Also, there is a new Udacity course Material Design for Android Developers which looks good for junior designers.
Finally, get inspired about Google dev here:
- Visit g.co/materialshowcase for examples of Apps with best-in-class Android Design
- Visit androidexperiments.com showcasing some of the coolest things people are building with Android. For instance:
- Inkspace - an experimental drawing tool which uses the accelerometer on your Android device to move the drawings you make in 3d.
- Landmarker - An experimental compass to explore landmarks around you.
All in all, it was a packed day and thanks to Google for making the effort to engage with developers and agencies, providing support and inspiration.