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Creating a persona: what does your product sound like?

Wally Brill
Head Of Conversation Design Advocacy & Education at Google
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2018 Google I/O
May 10, 2018, Mountain View, USA
2018 Google I/O
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About speaker

Wally Brill
Head Of Conversation Design Advocacy & Education at Google

Wally helps internal groups and external partners maintain best practices of design for conversational speech systems. Previously as Google’s senior persona designer he helped bring the character of The Google Assistant to life. Prior to coming to Google, he designed persona driven, speech recognition systems for enterprises and governments from Allstate Insurance and British Airways to eBay and The U.S. Navy.

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What is a persona? And how can it reinforce your product's identity? Learn about tools, get tips, and see examples of how well-designed personas can transform voice-enabled interfaces and boost user engagement.

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So thank you for coming. We got the coolest people at Ajo right here. Give yourselves a hand. Excellent, excellent. So thank you for joining me. We're going to dig into the world of persona first. I want to see a show of hands. How many people brought a Persona with them today? Great. It's a trick question. You won't did. So I got to get the clicker. So we're going to talk about how Persona can make your actions stand out. They can extend the brand and they can increase usability. first

I'm Wally Brill on the head of conversation design advocacy and education here at Google and I've been teaching robots to talk for about 20 years. Actually. I've been teaching him to talk longer than that, but when I was a kid, they didn't talk back which was kind of depressing. So this is a previous Persona of mine. I even had hair. I just want to tell you folks. There is no distinct correlation between hair loss and designing personas. It's okay. All right, so years ago when I had here I was a record producer. I was working mostly in the UK

and I had this idea whether it was good or not. I'm not sure but I wanted to create an offer that was interactive. I wanted you to be able to talk to the characters and change slots like one of those choose your own adventure stories, right? So, what did I do? I decided I would find a technology that would work to do this. And in those days we were thinking about things like CD-ROMs. I don't know if any of you remember CD-ROMs gato y c a i see a couple of nights. Okay good. So I went to the company that invented speech recognition and I said to

them can you tell me about this stuff and they said well, you know about sound come in here and they made me take a job there. And what happened was they sent me to see a man called James jungle. I don't know if any of you know of him. He was one of the pioneers of conversational design for interactive speech and he gave it to hit Stanford which completely blew my mind because it was about how you can speak naturally to a robot and it will speak naturally back to you. He wrote a book called voice user interface design, which I recommend to anybody who's interested

in this stuff. So moving along. This is our fabulous conversation design team that I recently joined at Google lots of happy faces there. Now let's get down to it. What's a Persona? How do we go about designing the perfect digital employee that's going to work for us and make us stand out. So what is a Persona if the aspect of someone's character this presented or perceived by others? It's your face that you showed in the world. It's the who of who you are that you let people see. Now in acting people use personas all the

time in the 1930s Leslie Howard and Norma Shearer version of Romeo and Juliet Cecil. It was very widely liked and it's it will now spend on to the 1990s and here's Leonardo Dicaprio and Claire Danes performing exactly the same content but was very different personas and it came across very much more contemporary and it was a big success of the time but very very different from that original film. Not everybody's got a unique Persona you get it when your born it changes with you as you develop and as you grow and like I said, it's the who of who you are differentiates one from another.

That makes us individuals. But now we live in the future, right? There are 500 million devices that have the Google assistant on them. Can I get an okay? Right, that's a lot of people have a lot of devices to people have high expectations of what an intelligent assistant can do and how and where we can interact with it. And it's not just this thing that you talk to now, we're talkin about surfaces that the AI moves across effortlessly from your Google home to your TV to your smartphone to your car to your watch

all these surfaces we have to take into consideration when we're designing fursona. It's not just voice. It's also audio content like soundesign its visual content now its interaction design. The interaction design actually has a lot to do with how your persona comes across. And it's even typography. Here's a quick example. This is a joke. I'm not holding up any hope for being a great joke, but you can see that the punchline is really punched up because of typography. So we got to think about

visual surfaces as well as audio situations. So let's give it for a second and now talk about a voice first world. And understand why Persona design is so important. So we're going to talk about a series of documents that you will make when you're designing a Persona and what they'll do is they'll help you keep the writing the things that this system says consistent and clear because otherwise it can appear fractured and if the personas fractured people lose trust in the actual action

Sew-in wire for speech sorry, there is no such thing as no Persona, by the way, I that was my trick question I stuck in there. Are we go inward for speech quiz mass. And Scott Graves said when people hear any voice, they automatically and unconsciously a sign of personality to it. This is a really important thing within a second second and a half of hearing a voice you create an image in your mind. You have an idea of who you're listening to you know what I mean? Whenever you hear somebody calls you off that you don't know you got an idea who

they are. You have a sense of them because you know what we can infer age we can infer gender. We understand their education level by the kind of things they say, We get register now register is the social context. It's where this Persona is in relation to me. Is it my boss? Is it my employee? Is it my peer? Who is this that I'm speaking with? We also get a sense of lolcow if they have an accent that's different from ours. We just don't recognize accents if we have the same one. So the other refer traits we get our intelligence

trustworthiness and likeability all these things come through in that first second second and a half of your inner voice. So it's really important that we get this right we have to set ourselves up for Success because now more than ever the experience of the action is the brand to the consumer. What happens is every touchpoint matters. So billboard advertising the web radio TV, absolutely social media absolutely is carries the brand Essence and so it's vital that we get it right because

If we leave it to chance, you never know what you're going to get so you don't just use anything. You've got to design your fursona because otherwise the results will be unpredictable. So, how do we do it? How do we actually design one? This is where some of the fun stuff starts. We need to make that digital employee. And what I've done is I suggested we take two Airlines to map this out and to talk about how we do it. These are two airlines that obviously don't exist. What is important Airlines? It's a national carrier. It says it's important.

It's you can see their strapline. We are important and we will get you there right kind of traditional kind of straight, you know on the other hand Millennial Airlines, and their strapline is it's an awesome day to fly you want to say that with me. It's an awesome day to fly once more with feeling. It's an awesome day to fly Freight. Thank you. So the first step in designing a Persona is we need to understand the brand. We need to interview the stakeholders. We need to talk to people in brand and marketing

and customer experience customer service. We want to look to see if there's a style guide now the marketing people and the brand people will of already done the sale of distilled their brand down, but you want to go over it and understand it and really get it. So you're going to experience the product to get on the plane and go take a trip somewhere. You may visit the contact center because those contact center agents are actually carrying the brand Essence with them when they speak to customers over the phone. You going to check out social media and if there's a retail

component, you'll go into a store, right? So let's talk about important for a second talk about my water for a second. Here it is. So important Airlines friend is solid they're confident. They're experts. They know what they're doing a reliable. They're utterly straightforward There's No Frills or anything and they're safe. They got a great safety record, but you're not going to get wildly excited flying on important, right? No surprises and where it's an awesome day to fly. Thank you for helping me with that.

The millennial Airlines brand is bold. It's hip it's fun. It's friendly it's even exciting and delightful. It's a whole different kind of world if it's there to bring excitement of travel into your life. So those are two sets of brand Essences right now. Let's understand the customer. We need to know who's going to use this interaction. So we want to understand their context and their customer Journey. We want to know who they are through their demographics. Where do they live? What do they like? How old are they

we want to understand the frequency of Engagement because that's going to have a lot to do with how verbose your prompts are. If their frequent frequent users. You can keep things really short if they're infrequent users. You might want to give him a little more information. And we want to understand their expectations and needs no one thing you should know is that people generally like to be mirrored they like the idea of interacting with someone who at least relates to them in some ways that it's a preference, right? So the

important Airlines customer mid-thirties and up. These are business Travelers their frequent frequent flyers the Road Warriors their high value because those business class and first class seats are expensive. Where is on the other hand are millennials customer is late teens to mid-30s their holidaymakers the Backpackers their young families going to Orlando. Maybe they're budget-conscious and they don't use the airline very much. They use it for holidays, you know once or twice a year. So we know

the brand we know the customer now what's has 4 we going to do here? So what are chosen is flyfoe flight information? That's what's the status of my flight. Is it going to take off on time? Is it late? Has it been canceled? When is it expected all that kind of good stuff. Right, which leads us to choosing the medium for the audio. Now, there's two ways to do this. You can use Text-to-Speech TTS. I'm sure you all know what that is. Versus custom recording which is when you have an actor in front of a microphone

recording Frantz right text to speech is the computer-generated voice custom recording is the human actor. So text-to-speech is infinitely scalable. It's really easy to use. It's really cheap is what it's doing. Is this reading written content. It handles Dynamic content really well. So in our case, we've got an airline with a lot of changes going on, you know, Duluth to Minneapolis blah blah blah all these all these things are going and stuff changing on the fly. So we'll probably use text to speech there. How can you go back one, please?

There we go. The cons are. Limited voice availability and thunder mention this in the prosody and the prosody is The Melody of speech and occasionally certainly in the old days text to speech prosody wasn't great. I think you'll agree from what we heard this week that it's now phenomenally good. It's almost indistinguishable from Human speech. Show Time Out magazine in London decided they would use Text-to-Speech. They do listings of events. Whatever is hip and happening as you can see Sanjay because said from Secret Tango lessons to breakfast

Raves using the assistant to connect timeout visitors to the coolest stuff to do and they do they created T. Who's a millennial she's hip and happening. She knows what's going on in London given time. Let me give you an example of what she sounds like. OK Google talk to timeout Hey you again? When do you want to go out today this week or this weekend? I'm TI No One Knows the city like me because I've been discovering the Brilliance in such an out the

secrets and extraordinary for a long time if she wants to know about food and then I knew he was social companion Troy me. What do you want to do? And when do you want to do it where I spend most of my days Chillin Out Maxin relaxin all have stuff in my bank balance go down and my mom started to shout. She says you need to play school time out. Quit a pretty cool right pretty interesting. That's a pretty solid for Sona and you get a sense of who she really is.

mount on the custom recording side headspace which does meditation guidance needed to use an actual real voice and he put a gun who is the guy who started headspace and he does guided meditations and I won't play one now because they chill me out so much. I couldn't carry on with this talk but they're really really good. And the thing about custom recording is his natural. It's expressive. It's comprehensible and any voice in the world can be used right? You can go and hire anybody to be the voice actor now luckily for

headspace. They've got Andy, he's there all the time because sometimes it can be expensive to record and maintain and it relies on the availability of that artist and he goes there every day so he's okay. So let me play you an example of headspace. Just a short one to hear what the voice sounds like. Hi, my name is Andy and welcome to headspace using proven meditation and mindfulness techniques. I'll show you how to train your mind for a healthier happier more enjoyable life. I want to buy

shoes sessions. Very Channel 2 minutes long. I can help bring a little more options to choose from wake up. Take a moment or I'm wind. Which one would you like to try? Okay now because we're doing flight information we've chosen TTS, right? So the fun part, how do we Design This Persona? How do we create that perfect representative our digital employee? What are the steps we have to take this is where we get creative thinking to that creative brain and let's get going. So we go back to the other ones. We understand the brand the

customer the task and the medium now, we're going to go in and vent some people we're going to write biographies for Imaginary characters who might be a good fit for the job that we have for them. So who's that perfect representative who can it be? They got to make the the action useful in use of all they've got to be comprehensible. They've got to be somebody that you'd really want to work with. The first step is register. We need to know what that social context is right we talked about this a little bit before what's the relationship between

me and that and that Persona. Is it my Pier a really close friend of mine? Is it an employee somebody that works for me and just does whatever I ask whenever I need it. Or is it an advisor? Somebody who maybe knows more stuff than me is at somewhat of a higher level and that I'm taking information from When we do this for real, you'll probably want to create three different personas and you may make them of three different registers ones appear maybe 2 or R R R Us Orem

employees. You'll play around with it a little bit. And you make the register different for them? I have a look at this chart this again comes from Clifford mass and you'll see that there's a vertical axis which is dominance and submissiveness versus friendliness and distance. This is kind of handy because when you're deciding what kind of persona you want and how it's going to relate to your customer, you can use this quite effectively to position them. Mount Fruitport in Airlines we decided we wanted

a butler. Somebody like a butler who would relate to that demographic that we had remember their 35 and up. So we wanted somebody with some gravitas. It's I'll give it no hints, but it's it's a British Airway Airline British Airline and So we have Terrence Butler. He's 56. His occupation is Butler. He comes from Bromley and Kent which is a lovely suburb now. Why do I care about his height and weight because it effects voice it affects the largeness of the voice voice. So there's a lot in there in

terms of size. He's solidly built. He's got fitting silver hair. That's just a shout out to people who are losing their hair. He lives where he works. He's single and he went to the Ivor Spencer international school for Butler administrators, which is a real place. Can you believe it the nominal? Carrying on he's a collector of rare wines. Why do we care because he's detail-oriented his parents. Jack was retired Hotel manager. So he understands the hospitality industry, right? I'm his mother

was a retired nurse again a caretaking profession. So he doesn't have any siblings. The reason we're interested in siblings is if you're the oldest of four kids, you may be a little better at being a caretaker than the youngest and my family actually works that way. I'm the youngest and I'm a little crazy but my Elvis brother is very straight ahead Upstairs Downstairs. He reads the Daily Telegraph and historical fiction by Hilary Men's Health. He's also been 30 years in this job. So he really knows it. Now, we flashback to the

brand attributes of important and see how they match up. So important is solid. It's confident. It's expert it's reliable. It's straightforward. It's safe, right? So how does Terrence relate to that? Well, he's a butler he's been a butler for a long time. He's confident. He's expert and he's reliable. He's very straightforward and he's worked for that family for over 30 years. So he's he's somebody you can trust. And the fact that he's an avid collector of rare wines tells you that he is detail-oriented and he is an expert. Now the next step is we're going to create

Beyond this bio. We're going to create two more documents. We're going to create a monologue which gives us a sense of who this character is. It's a paragraph like a conversation that they're having with a friend in a bar or somewhere where they're just telling them something that happened that day or that week and it's really just to get us into the character a little more deeply and if you're using custom recording with voice actors, it's a great way for them to dive back into the character if they've recorded that monologue once because on Monday, they

may be in the studio recording for a sausage company and on Tuesday, they may be doing a car commercial but on Thursday they're coming in to do your action and you want them to be in your persona. So that's why these materials really help the monologue really helps. So let me give you an example of one. I quite enjoy this occupation. It's extremely gratifying to know that one is indispensable. If so, it's stepping out of an evening. I shall have prepared and I shall of course assist him in time his bow tie

the work of a gentleman's gentleman is never done. So he's pretty formal write his language is pretty formal. And the next thing we're going to do is we're going to create a sample dialog now. I know that all of you whenever you decide to make an action or create an action you start with conversation you start with sample dialogues, right? You're right the conversation out like a two-part Play. Here's the user. Here's the system. Here's the user. Here's the system and that really helps to tell you whether this conversation is natural-sounding. So

here's Terrence in an actual interaction the way he would be if you were working in the action. OK Google talk to important Airlines. Good morning. Thank you you require information regarding your flight to London today? Yes. So and do you require information regarding your flight to London today? Very formal language very much in Persona very much locked into what we would expect for this character. Now, let's move along and go to Millennial which is as we know a very different Airline indeed. So the millennial Airlines Persona is a young woman we call hell

and high water. I'll say that again Helen highwater. She's 26 years old. She's a gate agent at San Francisco International. She comes from Mill Valley, California another nice suburb. She's 5 515 lb should General description shows that she's kind of a hipster. She's got this wild asymmetrical haircut. She lives in a three-bedroom apartment in the mission with a couple of friends of hers Jack who's a software developer interesting ly enough and Natalie who's in med school. She's going out with Gary who's the drummer in a band

called The ironic three another reason that ironic is cuz there are 5 members. She studied drama in English, which gives her a lot of help towards what she really wants to be, which is a stand-up comic that's her dream. She spends every free minute working on her act. So her parents Ron manages Mill Valley branch of the bank of Marin, so she has a certain sense of responsibility Lucy teaches English Lit at Mill Valley Middle School. So again a love of language right these won't kind of factor in and you may think some of these things aren't not that

necessary, but I promise you if you get into a studio with a voice artist, they're going to go. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This gives me some depth. It gives me something to work with her at Cobb's Comedy Club. She likes Game of Thrones stranger things Broad City. Amy Schumer. Amy Sedaris only good stuff. Now go back to the brand. This brand is bold hip fun happening there friendly their exciting in their delightful. I think she could

be a really good match for this. So, let's see how she ties up for it 26 year-old hipster. She said she work she's done it for three years without missing a day. She's reliable we can count on her. She's a people person. She gets along with everybody even drummers that makes her friendly and fun and her dream is to make a living as a stand-up now if you're going to be a stand-up you better be bold. You better be friendly. You better be fun and please be delightful. So she's got a monologue. Let's have a listen.

I use everything and believe me when you deal with the passengers, there's endless amounts of material like the woman who was going to Boston but her luggage was on its way to Austin or the parents off on holiday who each expected the other one to bring the kids to the airport. Then there's the guy who thinks he deserves an upgrade because he was in some obscure rock band from 20 years ago or something. Let me tell you it's great training for stand up and I get paid for it and if I can deal with them, there isn't a Heckler in the world who can bother me. So pretty consistent

she is who she is we get a sense of her through the monologue now, let's see what she would be like in a sample dialog actually doing the job. OK Google talk to Millennial Airlines Millennial Airlines, it's an awesome day to fly. Is this Wally great. Do you want info about your flight to London today? So completely different kind of language. Do you want info? It's an awesome day to fly very different than our last Persona Terrence because these brands are so different and we need to be consistent to the brand. Okay. So as you can see, it makes a difference,

right? So in terms of positioning these guys, where do we think they would fit on this chart? Will it start with Terrance? He's kind of submissive. He's introverted. He just does what he's told he does the job. He doesn't very very well, but he does the job. He's not overly friendly. He's not distant. He's just kind of in that middle place somewhere. And what about Helen? She's super friendly. She's an extrovert to the extreme and she's she's a lot of fun. So she belongs right there over on the right. The Next Step which we're not going to dive into too deeply right now is

what we call user-testing sometimes you do what's called Wizard of Oz testing and you can do this effectively with dialogflow spy actually mocking up quickly the main Paths of your interactions and then playing them for four people have people work through them and get a sense of usable it is and how much that Persona matches there in going expectations. so we got a few takeaways for you. First review the actions you've already made and they're wonderful. I know but is the Persona clearly defined do you feel confident that the Persona is well imagined and we'll

created is representative of the brand the user and the task. Does it work, right? Number to Define that Persona you going to follow the process learn about the brand know the user know the task. And Define appropriate characters, which is for me the fun part. And then bring it to life right these monologues right these sample dialogues and make recordings of them because you can only tell about conversational voice user interface by listening to it. If you read it on the

page, it won't have the same effect at all. And if you've got stakeholders that you're trying to talk to about what you're doing and to explain this is the right thing. They've got to hear it. You don't want to give them anything with writing on it. Just just say close your eyes listen to this. Event Test tester action with real customers low-fidelity prototypes dialogflow. However, but you wanted to arrive some data and some proof points for your stakeholders to say customers users really felt this was right for our brand. And that gives you

success. I hope I'm sure and it will be wonderful and you'll make beautiful personas and so with that. I'm going to ask you to give us some feedback you all know the drill. And finally here a couple of resources that are really quite wonderful developers. Google.com google.com. I owe Kathy Pearl who just recently joined our team read a wonderful book called designing voice user interfaces, which I recommend highly Clifford dances but wired for speech. I also recommend highly he talks about

Persona at great Great Lakes M. James junglers voice user interface design is a really really important Baseline book. This is this is this kicked off a whole generation of Avenue E designers. So with that thank you very very much for coming and have a wonderful rest of, Ohio.

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