Google I/O 2017: Applying Lessons for Developers to Community Engagement

In January 2017, we wrapped up the training week for the inaugural class of the AAAS Community Engagement Fellows Program (CEFP), funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The first cohort of Fellows is made up of 17 scientific community managers working with a diverse range of scientific communities. As they continue to develop their community engagement skills and apply some of the ideas and strategies from the January training, the Fellows will report back on the Trellis blog, sharing their challenges, discoveries, and insights. In this post, Dr. Stephanie E. Vasko recaps several talks from Google’s I/O 2017 conference and finds the link to community management.

Posted by Stephanie E. Vasko, Research Associate and Program Manager for the Toolbox Dialogue Initiative (TDI) at Michigan State University

Google I/O 2017 logo

As part of my push to develop new community engagement management skills during my fellowship year, I am interested in developing web apps for community engagement. Last week, I had the opportunity to attend Google I/O, Google’s annual developer conference at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, CA. While this conference is geared towards developers, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of talks I saw that touched on aspects of community engagement.

Community engagement managers often have to think about the design and display of their content for their communities, crafting content, and developing brand voice. Many communities rely less and less on in-person interactions for this and more on web resources and virtual meetings. This means that skills in areas like user experience design and designing for accessibility should be on the radar of all community engagement managers. In this vein, I wanted to share a recap of five talks from I/O that might help you expand or enhance your community engagement skills in these areas:

 

1. “Designing for the Next Billion Users: Accessibility UX Insights from the Developing World”

In this talk Astrid Weber (UX research for accessibility engineering, Google) and Nithya Sambasivan (UX research for emerging markets, Google) focused on situations in which we have accessibility needs, outlining four key areas to consider for new users: awareness (e.g. how to design a warm welcome), access (e.g. how to help users control their costs) relevance (e.g. How to be locally relevant), and design (e.g. how to make better color choices). Each of these areas receives attention and examples in this talk and can help community engagement managers design and target content for new audiences.

 

2. “Pragmatic Accessibility. A How-To Guide for Teams.”
Rob Dotson (Developer Advocate on the Chrome Team, Google) highlights that “accessibility is a team effort.” Dodson identifies three key stakeholders on a team, one of which, the “project manager”, applys to most community engagement managers. He notes that project managers should make sure that everyone on a team should receive accessibility training, identify critical user journeys, incorporate an accessibility checklist, and evaluate product with user studies.

Dodson points to three resources for PMs to help get teams trained in accessibility (with respect to the web), including: a free course on Udacity about Web Accessibility, those same materials in a text format, and the Material Design accessibility guidelines from Google.

 

3. “How words can make your product stand out”

According to the introduction, this talk represented the first time that UX writing was on stage at Google I/O. It covers content strategy at Google, UX writing best practices, and a case study on brand voice for Google Pay. Maggie Stanphill (manager of a team of UX writers, Google) demonstrates a great example of community engagement during her talk, inviting those who have written a review on Google Maps to raise their hands and then thanking them for contributing to the community.

In terms of content strategy, Stanphill notes “language is helping the user get where they want to go. And by focusing on what the user wants to achieve, this builds trust and loyalty. This is what content strategy is all about.” The “UX writing best practices” portion of this talk is especially helpful for creating community engagement content.

Also in this presentation, Allison Rung (UX content strategy, Google) focuses on being clear, concise, and useful in your writing, offering suggestions and examples for each in more detail.

 

4. “Using Design Sprints to increase cross-functional collaboration”

Design Sprints in this context are described as Googlers coming together to look for ways to increase collaboration and innovation by combining design thinking, user research, and business strategy to develop a core set of methods. According to Kai Haley (Interaction Designer, Google) who moderates this conversation, a “design sprint is a tool for answering a critical business question” and Google does this in five stages: understand, sketch, decide, validate, and prototype.

Based on the examples provided by the panel of six Spring Masters, community engagement managers could use these types of sprints in order to try new ideas within their communities or look at/ develop policies. The panelists also mention the importance of planning for the sprint. Lightning talks to increase understanding are highlighted; these are a process that the community engagement fellows also engage in at each of our in-person meetings.

 

5. “Building apps for the Google Assistant”

Wait a minute; you might be saying here, this talk sounds really far from community engagement. Taking a step back, Brad Abrams (Product Manager, Google) describes Google Assistant as “a conversation between you and Google to help you get things done in your world.” For me, that sounds a lot like the conversation between a community engagement manger and a community member.

The development of the Google Assistant app for I/O 2017 serves as the example case for this talk, with discussions of how the brand voice, style guide, and persona were developed for the app. These three areas are also of importance to community engagement managers to be able to help their members get things done in their worlds. Google Assistant represents a potential next step in helping community engagement managers perform their jobs, and I look forward to covering this in a future blog post!

If you are interested in developing personas, there is a Google Codelab that ties into this talk, “Crafting a Character: Design an engaging Assistant app,” part of which walks through persona design.

 

As a final note, it would be remiss not to mention the role that other communities have played in my ability to participate in Google I/O. I would like to thank Anita Borg Institute & Systers for the ability to obtain a discounted ticket and scholarship. I’d also like to thank ABI and Systers, as well as Women Techmakers (and the Women Techmakers slack community!), for helping me to find additional communities in which to participate, engage, and receive mentorship.

You can find all of the CEFP Fellows’ posts, including others by Dr. Vasko  here.