My name is Ali Hoss. I’m a multidisciplinary designer and UX/UI designer.

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Google Home VUI Design System

Research objective

Understand the interaction styles people have with their smart home speakers, what they use them for, and why they chose to use them.




We knew we wanted to study how people used smart home devices, but we didn’t know which area to focus on. When screening for participants, we asked people what kinds of smart home devices they had in their home. The majority of responders said they had a smart home speaker (Google Home/Amazon Alexa). We were interested in challenging ourselves to do a VUI project as something different, so we did.



Diary study:

Duration: 5 days
The cadence of entries:  1 Wednesday, 1 Thursday, 1 Friday, and 1 Saturday or Sunday (4 total entries)
Supplementary research: Post-study interview

We found that people used their smart home speakers multiple times a day, so we felt that asking them to record their day’s usage 4 times over a 5-day period starting on a Wednesday and ending on a Sunday, would allow us to see if their behavior was different depending on the day of the week and not be an overwhelming amount of effort for our participants. The daily survey asked participants to tell us the type of interaction they had with their smart speaker (asking for the weather, streaming music, whether they encountered any errors). Every day we sent them a reminder to complete their survey and we were able to collect all of the entries by the end of the study.



We initially chose to do:

  • Affinity Diagramming
  • User needs statements
  • Design Studio
  • How Might We…? statements
  • Discussion/Ideation
  • Storyboarding



Key insights

While errors were found to be in several categories, the common theme was a lack of understanding on the part of the assistant. The users’ common issues led to many saying while they would use it more, it was frustrating to use beyond the actions they could trust the assistant to complete successfully already.

Users were commonly frustrated by lack of understanding due to:

  • accent
  • assistant’s lack of cultural knowledge
  • background sound
  • complex commands


Key Takeaways

  • The assistant should learn the user’s preferences to give more accurate responses.
  • The threshold for completing a request that the assistant doesn’t fully understand should be lower and/or more detailed.
  • The assistant should employ a deeper fallback dialog if it doesn’t understand the user.


Problem statement

How might we allow users to be understood the first time so that they can efficiently complete their intended task? If they aren’t understood the first time, how can we help mitigate their frustration?



For the assistant to understand the user

  • Onboarding flow to set preferences
  • Ability to bookmark

As a better error handling process

  • What happens when humans don’t understand each other – a negotiation for understanding


Dialog flow: Get to know me feature

  • Users have a conversation when they first set up their Google Home
  • The “Get to Know Me” questions aim to personalize the Google Home system so that it can understanding them better.


Dialog flow: Add to favorites

  • User will be able to spell out the specific term that the user is saying as the slot for Google to learn the spelling and user’s pronunciation
  • Users will have the option to add to their favorites


Our Team:

Jana Thompson • Isabelle Su • Ali Hoss


My Role:

  • UX Researcher
  • UX Designer
  • Motion Graphics Designer