Create a persona

Think of your persona as the front end of your Action, that is, the conversational partner you create to interact directly with users. Defining a clear system persona is vital to ensuring a consistent user experience that builds user trust.

A persona is a design tool that helps you write conversations. Before you can write a dialog, you have to have a clear picture of who is communicating. A good persona evokes a distinct tone and personality, and it’s simple enough to keep top-of-mind when writing dialog. It should be easy to answer the question: “What would this persona say or do in this situation?”.

Users will project a persona onto your Action whether you plan for one or not. So it's in your best interest to purposefully design the experience you want users to perceive, instead of leaving it up to chance.

How do I create a persona?

Your persona can help provide users with a mental model for what your Action can do and how it works by starting with what users already know. For example, in a banking application, the persona could be modeled after an idealized bank teller—trustworthy with customers’ money and personal information. The metaphor of the bank teller makes this new experience feel familiar, since users’ real-world banking knowledge can guide them.
Step 1 Brainstorm a list of adjectives (e.g., friendly, technologically competent). Focus on the qualities you want users to perceive when talking to your Action.
Step 2 Narrow your list down to 4-6 key adjectives that describe your persona’s core personality traits.
Step 3 Come up with a few different characters who embody these qualities (e.g., a barista, a fashion icon, a world traveler). Your persona doesn’t have to be a person. It could also be an anthropomorphized animal, an alien, an artificial intelligence, a cartoon character, etc.
Step 4

Choose one character that best embodies your Action and write a short description, no more than a paragraph. This description should provide a clear sense of what this persona is like, especially what it would say, write, or do.

Focus on personality traits, and avoid specifying things like gender or age because they almost never critically define or differentiate a persona. Furthermore, deciding the gender upfront will make it harder to find the right voice, since you’ve already eliminated half of the options.

Step 5 Find, or create, an image or two that visually represents your persona. Pictures are a great memory aid and can help you keep the persona in mind when writing dialog. If you create your own, consider using it as your Action’s logo so users can see it too.

What voice should I choose?

When people hear a voice, they instantly make assumptions about the speaker’s gender, age, social status, emotional state, and place of origin, as well as personality traits like warmth, confidence, intelligence, etc. People can’t help but do this with virtual assistants, too—so guide the assumptions they make about your Action by choosing a voice that is consistent with your persona.
Type Description Pros Cons
Synthesized The Actions on Google platform provides a variety of text-to-speech (TTS) voices that speak different languages. Go to Languages and Locales to hear them. Note that you can adjust the way the synthesized speech sounds by using Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML). For example, you may want to add silence or pauses, specify how numbers should be read, or adjust the intonation.
  • Hear prompts as soon as you’ve written them
  • Make quick and easy edits
  • Localization is built-in
  • Can sound unnatural or robotic
  • Less expressive. Difficult to convey humor, sarcasm, etc.
  • Few voices to choose from
Recorded You can hire a professional voice actor, or even try using your own voice. Either way, you’ll need to record all the audio that will be used in your Action.
  • Natural and human
  • Very expressive. Can convey humor, sarcasm, etc.
  • Unlimited voices to choose from
  • Edits require re-recording
  • Recordings have to be localized
  • Requires robust management system for audio files
Step 1 Write a few spoken prompts that your persona would say. Or better yet, write a sample dialog. These will be the lines used for the audition.
Step 2

If you’re auditioning TTS voices, render your lines in each voice.

If you’re auditioning voice actors, tell them about what your Action does and give them your persona description and key adjectives so they understand the character they’re embodying. Then record them reading the lines.

Step 3 Create a scorecard using the key adjectives that describe your persona. The goal is to rate how well a voice conveys each adjective using a 5-point scale, with 1 meaning “not very well” and 5 meaning “very well."
Step 4

Organize a listening party with your friends or colleagues. Audition each voice and rate them on the scorecard. Focus on the voice by just listening—don’t read along. It helps to close your eyes and try to imagine the speaker.

Step 5 Review the ratings and choose the winner! If there’s a tie, listen to the voices again, this time rating them against your short persona description.


Here’s an example of the persona created for the Google I/O 18 Action:
Key Adjectives
  • Practical/straightforward
  • Techie
  • Enthusiastic
  • I/O expert
Characters who embody those adjectives

Who would be an I/O expert?

  • I/O Planning Committee member
  • Speaker at I/O
  • Google Developer Expert
  • Google Developer Group organizer
  • Frequent I/O attendee
Short description The Keeper of I/O-Specific Knowledge is a Google Developer Expert who believes strongly in the power of technology. A skilled networker, they spend their time answering questions on StackOverflow, building apps for big brands, and helping Google run They’ve attended I/O for the past 7 years and are a trusted member of the developer community. As a spokesperson for I/O, they take this responsibility very seriously, but, of course, they’re still going to have fun doing it.
Voice chosen Of the available TTS voices for United States English, Female 2 ranked highest on practical/straightforward and techie

Check out this two-part blog post for more details on how we designed and built the I/O 18 Action. You can also view the open-source code for a closer look at the structure.