Android Influencer: Yasmine Evjen of the 'Material' podcast shares her Google I/O wish list

Still proudly sporting a first-gen Asus ZenWatch, Evjen is one-third of the 'Material' podcast—as well as a prolific UX designer.

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The Android community is bustling with friendly faces—and you couldn’t find a more engaging, enthusiastic advocate for the OS than Yasmine Evjen, a UX designer and developer. Evjen can be heard weekly on the Google-focused Material podcast, and she’s also a major advocate for diversity in the tech space.

Because Evjen is a veteran of Google’s annual developer’s conference, we just had to ask her for predictions on what she expects from Google I/O this week. So let’s start with a discussion of the big show before we get her thoughts on a much smaller but still immensely entertaining show: Material.

Greenbot: With Google I/O fast approaching, what are you excited about seeing?

Evjen: I’m really excited to see how Google bridges the gap between the physical and virtual world. We’ve been hearing a lot of discussion around VR and Project Tango. Will Google give us a three-dimensional virtual interface that we can see and touch? Will Cardboard evolve into a standalone product, and still maintain the affordability of a cardboard box? I can’t wait!

Since I live in a city with long commutes, I’m also excited to see the self-driving car in action. And, Google, please bring tap and pay to Android Wear and smaller watches.

Lastly, I’m ready for some home automation!

Greenbot: Anything Material Design-related that you could see evolving in Android N? Is there a sort of design pattern or philosophy you think we should keep in mind as we’re tinkering around with the developer preview?

Evjen: We’re seeing a big push for micro-interactions within the Quick Settings and Notifications tray. We need to start building apps that help us quickly and effectively get things done with the least amount of interaction.

It’s opposite to what most people think when it comes to apps. They equate time spent inside an app to high user satisfaction. But a great user experience is accomplishing a task in the least amount of steps possible. When you build systems that automatically do that for you, it feels like magic.

Think of ways to make your user’s life easier: What are tasks that a user can do from an incoming notification? If you’re building a messaging service, giving your user the ability to quick reply from a notification is a must. If you allow them to do it via their watch, they’ll love you forever. Don’t force your user to enter your app to accomplish a task. Think of ways to make tasks easier for them.

Greenbot: How do you explain the Material podcast to people who’ve never heard it before?

Evjen: Material is a weekly show about the Google and Android universe on Relay FM. Along with tech columnist Andy Ihnatko and app developer Russell Ivanovic we have discussions based on what’s happening in and around Google.

In the past, we’re interviewed various product teams, including the Google Nearby and Google Photos team, as well as the VP of Material Design, Matías Duarte. We wanted to create a show anyone could listen to, regardless if they’re an Android fan, or even technology-curious. 

Greenbot: So what’s the origin story?

Evjen: Material started three weeks after Google I/O 2015. Relay FM was looking to add an Android show to their Apple-heavy lineup. They reached out to Russell, and he worked with the co-founders to put together the rest of the crew. Russell and I met at I/O, then he reached out after the conference and asked if I would be interested in being the third host. Our first conversation, along with Andy, was painful to listen to. But we’ve grown a lot since then.

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Evjen (far right), along with her co-hosts Andy Ihnatko (far left) and Russell Ivanovic (bottom). 

Greenbot: How did you get started doing UX design?

Evjen: During my freshman year of college, I had to find a class to fulfill a computer credit. I saw Flash as one of the options and thought, “Flash is that thing I see on websites, right? That may be fun to learn.”

Turns out, I was actually pretty good at it, and my professor encouraged me to explore it as a career. I ended up getting a degree in Internet and Web Development, and worked on various digital design and web development projects early on. My first job was at a small industrial design firm working on various marketing and product projects. That evolved into a passion for User Experience Design (UX) and mobile apps.

Greenbot: I know you’re also a part of Google’s Women Techmakers group. Is there anything the team is putting together for I/O?

Evjen: Google’s Women Techmakers is going on full-force preparing for their annual dinner and answering any questions in the official Slack community. I have a feeling they were the team behind the conference code of conduct, community tips, Mothers’ rooms, and child care options.

I cannot praise highly enough the great work that Natalie Villalobos and her team are doing. Beyond making the I/O experience as seamless as possible, they’re helping build community with women from around the world with different career backgrounds. For the past five years, Women Techmakers has also offered a session within I/O, showcasing incredible technologists who just also happen to be women. Really looking forward to seeing what they cook up this year!

Greenbot: You say in your Relay.FM bio that you’re hooked on wearables. What are you sporting on your wrist these days?

Evjen: I have the original ASUS ZenWatch. It’s huge and bulky! As an early adopter, I knew the next generation of Android Wear watches would be thinner, but I didn’t want to wait.

Besides aesthetics, the second generation of watches didn’t provide enough for a new purchase. I told myself I’d wait until Android Wear received tap and pay to upgrade. I really hope they deliver this year, because I really want a smaller watch.

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Evjen and her co-host, Russell Ivanovic, at Google I/O 2015.

Greenbot: Do you think there’s been enough design ingenuity in the wearables sector?

Evjen: When Android Wear was first announced, everyone was eager to see what it could do. I would gloat about the shopping list on my wrist and the ability to respond to a text message without getting my phone out. But I would lose everyone’s attention when I told them they had to be connected to their phone via Bluetooth in order for it to work.

Google has made improvements in this area by adding Wi-Fi support, and in November 2015, announcing cellular support, which made it possible to leave your house without your phone and still make calls and answer messages. There are still a lot of hurdles to jump over before smartwatches become mainstream. Extending battery life and making them visually appealing is a start. If you’re not an early tech adopter, hold off a bit longer, wait till they get smaller and thinner.

Greenbot: What was your first Android device?

Evjen: My first Android phone was the HTC One V with Beats Audio. My love for Android came after that with the introduction of the Nexus 4.

Greenbot: What are you sporting these days?

Evjen: A frost Nexus 6P, patiently waiting for my Photos Live Case to arrive. Marc Edwards was gracious enough to send me a high-res version of a wallpaper he designed. Did you know he created the intro music for Material podcast? Besides being a talented designer, Marc used to be an audio engineer, and overall an amazing person.

Greenbot: What’s the one app you couldn’t live without?

Evjen: Pocket Casts. It’s a solid podcast app that syncs across multiple platforms, including the web! It also connects to Android Auto, helping me get through my long commute.

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