Wait, you develop for iOS at Google?
At Google, we have dedicated teams that create and design new Google experiences for the iOS platform. We spoke with Ken Bongort of the Google Search App team to find out what it was like to build Google’s most advanced voice search on the iOS platform.
Wait, you develop for iOS at Google?
Ken: I get this question a lot; people think Android is the only mobile platform that we support. But we actually have a ton of in-house iOS teams, building apps for everything from Search to YouTube to Chrome to Maps. My team, for example, focuses primarily on the Google Search app for iOS.
What is it like to develop for iOS at Google?
Ken: It's fun. People have misconception that we just copy and paste existing Google products to the iOS platform. But we have a lot of freedom and try to innovate beyond anything that Google’s done so far. We are always working on ideas to push the envelope on mobile search, and we collaborate closely with Google Web Search engineers to implement new features.
Sometimes our innovations inspire other teams at Google. Last fall, we redesigned our app for the iPad, and now we’re working closely with the Chrome for iOS team to improve the search experience in their app.
By the way, congratulations on launching Google’s most advanced voice search on iOS. Tell us about the new version of the Search app.
Ken: We focused on making voice search really fast and fun to use. We’re taking advantage of Google's fantastic speech recognition and natural language processing technologies to create a great mobile search experience. The new version of the Search app can often understand your question, and can give you a specific answer.
We also spent a lot of time perfecting design. Now the user experience is as simple as tapping on the microphone icon, with beautiful transitions and animations.
I heard this launch process was quite an adventure. What was the most challenging and rewarding part of this launch experience?
Ken: One day, close to the deadline, a Googler in Israel told us that voice search was really slow. I soon discovered that the problem occurred everywhere but the United States. We worked through the weekend with engineers responsible for the server-side code to diagnose the problem. It was crazy, but fun, and we fixed it in time.
The best part about the launch was seeing all the positive feedback from the press and our users. It was an awesome reward for all our hard work!
What kind of people thrive on your team?
Ken: We all like to build polished products and we take design very seriously. Just yesterday, I talked to my teammates about building a new way to transition from the search results back to the homepage. Three of us spent over an hour talking about how the animation would flow, whether users would find it intuitive or frustrating, everything. We’re always discussing design choices and thinking about user experience.
What are you most looking forward to doing in the Search iOS team in the future?
Ken: I'm excited about pushing mobile search into the future. One of the best things about Google is the tight collaboration with teams working on different products. I'm excited to do really cool things with mobile search. Needless to say, there are similar opportunities to create and design new experiences for all Google apps on the iOS platform.
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