One thing that is key for creating a good user experience on conversational platforms is to help your users getting things done quickly. In order to achieve this, we design a schema of routes that guide the user through the different capabilities of your conversational platform. We call this route a flow. A good flow enables a conversation between the user and for instance a voice assistant using clear instructions.
When creating such flows there are two types of users that you can always take in account, new users and users that use your action on a more regular basis. In this blog, I will introduce you to a feature for Google Assistants called Deep Links. This feature helps you to improve your flows for those returning users. This is the first blog of a series on creating and improving Google Assistant actions. In the upcoming editions I will highlight several existing features and will provide learnings on how to create successful Actions. So stay tuned! ;)
When I create a flow, I make sure that a user at least goes through all minimum required steps that are needed to complete a task. For instance, when I want to order a product from a website, the user fills in all the required details to ship the product to their location. When a user uses my action for the first time, it can be useful to guide them through your flow step by step. While this allows me to guide them through the whole process, it does add many interactions to the conversation. A returning user that is already familiar with the flow may find using the assistant a bad experience due to all the interactions they have to do each time they use it. To prevent this from happening you can use Deep Links.
What are Deep Links?
Using deep links, I can create shortcuts in my conversations. These shortcuts are useful because they allow the users of my action to provide the required information in one sentence, which helps them to get things done quickly. An example of this would be, “Okay Google, tell Mirabeau Shop to order sneakers and send them to Eindhoven”. The deep link allows my users to provide a product and a location while they start the action. Now they do not have to provide a product and a shipping location in separate steps within the flow.
How to implement Deep Links?
For this introduction, I will use Dialogflow, Google's conversational platform. I recommend that you get used with the basic of Dialogflow before you start using Deep Links. To setup a Deep Link, you have to sign in into Dialogflow first and setup a Dialogflow project with some intents. For this example, we will be using an action called Mirabeau Shop that has an order intent that requires the user to provide a product and shipping location when they try to order something in the conversation.
Figure 1: Order intent
The first step is to setup the Order intent as shown in figure 1. As you can see, I have trained this intent using training phrases such as "I want to order" and "I'd like to order something". The intent also requires my users to provide a product and shipping location. At this point, the intent cannot handle a product and a shipping location in a single sentence. However, since both these pieces of information are required to complete the order task, users will have to provide a product and a shipping location in separate steps. This is not ideal for returning users, if I want to allow them to get things done quickly, they should be able to provide all information in once sentence. To do this, I will use a Deep Link.
I first have to add an example phrase that contains a product and a shipping location in a single sentence. If you do not train the intent like this, our chatbot will not know how to handle both pieces of information at once.
Figure 2: Adding the deep link phrase
Now my users are able to provide a shipping address and a product when they tell our action that they want to order. Although this is already an improvement on itself, with Deep Links, I can improve it even more. I want my users to be able to provide a product and shipping location when they tell Google they want to talk to my action. This way they can complete their order task in one seamless sentence, instead of first having to activate my action and go through the flow step-by-step.
To do this, I will have to allow our order intent to be available for my users as soon as they want to use my action. I do this by adding it as an implicit intent. In Dialogflow, click on the integrations tab and select integration settings. A window should open with a section called implicit invocation. Here I can add any intent that should be available for my users when they say “Okay Google, Talk to Mirabeau Shop”.
Figure 3: Adding order intent as a Deep Link
Developer note: You can only add intents that have no input context as a Deep Link.
Now that the order intent is a Deep Link intent, my users will be able to provide a product and a shipping location by simply saying something like “Okay Google, Tell Mirabeau Shop to order sneaker and ship them to Eindhoven”.
And as you can see in the above example video, allowing the user to provide important information in a single sentence can save my users a lot of time and gives my action a more seamless user experience.
How does my user know when to use a Deep Link?
Since voice assistants cannot always use visuals to guide users, it might seem a bit challenging to inform your users about the available Deep Links in an action. Luckily Google has ways to inform your users about how you action works. To inform a user of an available Deep Link in an action, you can add it to the example phrases in the settings of your Google action. When you go back to the window where you added the order intent as a Deep Link, look for the option called Manage Assistant App, this will open the settings of your Google Action.
Figure 4: Opening Google Action settings
In the Google Action settings, click on the Deploy tab in the top to open your Actions information. Under Directory Information, open the Sample Invocations section. Here you can add examples of how the user can interact with your action.
Figure 5: Sample invocations
After you have released your action, all the provided sample invocations will be available on the actions explore page and users will be able to see which phrases they can use to interact with the action. One action that demonstrates the use of Deep Links very well is Google’s Play Music action. Play Music allows you to play different songs from your music library on your devices. Using Deep Links, it allows you to use phrases like “Okay Google, tell Play Music to play Happy Birthday” instead of having to say which action you want to use and after that specify if you want to play, pause or do other things with a song.
When creating actions it is important to remember to pay attention to the details and improve the experience for all your users. Now that you have an understanding of what Deep Links are, I hope you can see that they are a powerful tool and help with setting your action apart from all the others. Stay tuned for more blogs on how to improve your actions and the user experience for Google Assistant!
Open Voice Meetup
On Thursday 26 September Open Voice is back! Join and explore how voice is being adopted by the Media & Entertainment industry. Most radio-stations, several TV program’s, newspapers, even DJ’s are starting in Voice. Let’s listen and learn from what has been done and what is planned. Is it harder or easier than other industries? What about advertising, will that remain as a business model? Is there a TV guide for Voice? Come ask these and other questions. FREE tickets here!