Product & PROJECT summary
Google Home is a voice-activated speaker powered by the Google Assistant. Start by saying, “Ok Google” to enjoy music, get answers straight from Google, manage your everyday tasks, and easily control smart devices around the home.
I was the day-to-day UX lead for Google Home responsible for the end-to-end user experience. Though later to market than our competitors, the launch of Google Home quickly closed the gap in terms of units sold and in head-to-head functionality. Specifically, Google Home was celebrated for its design as a differentiator.
Role: UX lead
Led end-to-end user experience design for all aspects of Google Home from initial concept through launch, including:
Hardware interaction design
Companion app design
UX research planning, prep, and support
Processes to support UX, QA, and launch readiness evaluation, e.g., bug bashes, planning, prioritization, delegation of UX work tasks, and marketing support
Regular stakeholder communication and alignment across functions and product areas
Primary design team included me and 2 Industrial Designers. Additional design support included UX Director and variable number of UX designers and VUI designers
Project duration - 1 year (11.2015 - 11.2016)
I started to map out the space by looking at competitor products in the same / similar spaces as well as reviewing product interaction design trends.
Exploring analogous spaces
In addition to extensive secondary research on voice interface systems academic and commercial, I also investigated analogous spaces in history, fiction, and other industries looking for inspiration, common themes, and anything that would help inform our design for Google Home.
Using the first telephones
“...the telephone is the instrument you hold against your ear; no, not your head, your ear; yes, hold it tight and listen.”
– Angus Hibbard, Wisconsin Telephone News, September 1936
Voice user interfaces in movies and media
Her (2013) - Love story between a human and an artificial intelligence, “Samantha.” The user interface illustrates the promise of ubiquitous computing – commonplace technology that fades into the background.
…in other fields
Inspiration from other industries
Some we checked were: ambient computing, biology / biomimetics, data visualization, emerging UI, everyday objects, gaming, medical tech, quantified self, robotics, and tangible interfaces.
Starting from nothing, I worked with the industrial designers, engineers, and product managers to create the form and function of the product interaction design. I also visualized scenarios, eventually creating photoshop mockups for use in internal communications and as the background for vision videos that I also produced. After our direction was set, I was responsible for the designs of all the hardware interactions, working with a sound designer for the earcons. I also set the initial scope, choreography, and flows for the companion app experience before delegating the detailed design work to other designers.
In parallel with the design work, I partnered with our UX research team to drive dozens of usability studies, evaluations, and our dogfood program. This allowed us to get feedback on designs, test hypotheses, and help establish baseline targets to help determine launch readiness.
Example use cases & scenarios
Example designS & documentation
Development & Launch
We do not work in a waterfall method. Instead we stagger design and development in iterative cycles to allow us to incorporate data from usability studies, stakeholder feedback, technical constraints, and edge cases into our design process. What this looks like in practice is a lot of process, trackers, bug bashes, documentation, and marketing support.
A successful launch of our first voice-activated speaker quickly minimizing any first-to-market advantage of our competitors. Here’s some press from our release day in 2016.
Wall Street Journal: Google Details New ‘Pixel’ Smartphones, Amazon Echo-Fighter Called ‘Home’
Business Insider: Google unveils its newest major product: the Google Home speaker
Bloomberg TV:Google’s New Product Portfolio
Awards & Patents
Voice interface device (issued 2018)
LED Design Language for Visual Affordance of Voice User Interfaces (patent pending)
Planar Electrical Connector for an Electronic Device (patent pending)
Voice-Activated Electronic Device Assembly with Separable Base (patent pending)