James Buyayo, Designer

Google Hangouts

In communication, context matters.


People use Hangouts in many different ways, but often times to chat about happenings in the physical world and the logistics and details on how to meet up. By analyzing voluntarily-provided messaging logs, we found that asking 'where are you?' or variations of the phrase were a significant blip in the spread. In these cases location is an important information type that needs to be communicated, but it's hard to do so with just words alone. New user flows were created for sharing and seeing location information. We also worked on moments when the app could smartly assist in the location sharing process by surfacing up the functionality when the right context in the conversation exists through natural language processing. Eric Schmidt mentioned the feature as an "exciting new thing" in his annual meeting with the Google Board of Directors.


Along with this new feature, we also looked at how people used previous versions of Hangouts for composing a message and attaching things like photos, we found the flows to be difficult and hidden. The user flows were revamped to surface up features, as well as create mini-mode keyboard takeovers for attachment types to keep the conversational context while attaching. I lead the design for the full overhaul, including redesigned flows for composing, emoji input, attaching photos, and stickers across iOS and Android clients. Since launch, usage is up for every single attachment type, including location sharing, on both clients. Ars Technica wrote, “The biggest improvement is in sending attachments” in their review of the new Hangouts app. Launching first on Hangouts, the smart reply UX pattern has proliferated into Google's other products like the newly-launched Allo.