Aaron Mayor | UX/UI Designer
experience designer



Giving a Voice to the Drive-Thru

My Role: Concept | User Experience | Conversational Design
Tools Used: Sketch | Keynote Animation | DialogFlow

“Trust is built with consistency.”
— Lincoln Chafee



Sometimes there's a long wait.
Sometimes you get the wrong order, or worse, you get the right order but no sauce.
Sometimes the voice coming from the speaker is not always the friendliest. 

But sometimes, everything goes as expected.
How can we create a customer experience that always goes as it should? 


  1. Ordering from a menu would mean that the conversations are transactional by nature and narrow in focus.
  2. Talking is the most convenient and natural way to place an order in the drive-thru. There would be only one speaker at a time.
  3. McDonalds is already making efforts to automate customer-facing operations.


Mickey, a drive thru voice assistant that will take customer orders quickly, accurately, and politely.

Mickey can provide this level of service consistently meeting the customers' expectations no matter which location they happen to be at.



1. Invocation

Mickey will be invoked when a customer's vehicle passes through a motion sensor, exactly how drive-thrus work now to alert the employee.

When invoked, Mickey will play its sound logo alerting the customer that it has been activated. The sound that plays is a service bell, a sound that conveys a level of professionalism. 

This sound logo will also serve as branding for McDonalds. Hearing this sound logo will leave customers with another delightful memory.


2. Mickey speaking to Customers

When Mickey is speaking with the customers, it's visual indicator will be pulsing with its yellow center expanding, mimicking a talking mouth. 

Mickey's opening line will greet the customer, introduce itself as a voice assistant, and ask the customer if they would like a value meal. This opening statement primes the customer to order in a straight-forward manner and to order a value meal instead of á la carte. 

What Mickey says will also be shown on the screen for the customer to read. The order screen will also have a progress bar to inform the customer at what stage of the ordering process.


3. Waiting for Customer

When Mickey needs a response from a customer, its visual indicator goes from the pulsing motion into a sweeping motion similar to a spotlight searching for something.

The customer and Mickey are both knowingly in a conversation with each other. There isn't a need for Mickey to repeat itself unless specifically requested by the customer. 

However, to keep the ordering process moving in a timely manner, Mickey will show recommendations on its screen as it is waiting for the customer to respond.


4. Listening to Customer

When the customer begins to speak, Mickey's visual indicator will be going down and back up like it is nodding in acknowledgement.

Mickey will be listening for keywords and phrases to fulfill the customer request.   



User Journey / Expectation Map

The Drive-Thru can be broken down into 3 Phases:

  1. Order
  2. Payment
  3. Pick-Up

Each phase has certain customer expectations that are not always being met with the current drive-thru experience.

With Mickey implemented in the Order and Payment phases, customers can expect to have their order taken and paid for in a timely, accurately, and professional manner.

Mickey will benefit the Pick-Up phase by allowing McDonald's employees to give all their focus on making sure the order is bagged correctly, 


Customer Persona

Paying patrons of McDonalds come from all walks of life.
Because of this it was difficult to pinpoint exactly what kind of people were ordering with so many factors to consider.

But the moment they pull up into the drive-thru, they all begin to share a common mindset. That mindset being:

  • They are hungry
  • They have to be somewhere else
  • They expect a certain level of service

This momentary state of being while in the drive-thru was key in developing the customer persona, aptly named as, HUNGRY. HUNGRY NOW. 


Mickey Persona

A voice, no matter the source, is an inherently social construct. All of us are wired to recognize and respond to a voice in a social manner.

This added layer of complexity had to be considered when designing the sound and feel, the aesthetic, of Mickey. 

Using the psychological principles of Consistency-Attraction and Similarity-Attraction, Mickey was created to provide both a functional benefit as well as an emotional benefit. 

The efficacy of Mickey will achieve the goal of consistency and functionality. To meet the goal of similarity and provide an emotional aspect, Mickey's vocal attributes was designed to match the vernacular of its locality. 


Vocal Attributes of Mickey

A voice is essentially made up of 4 vocal characteristics: volume, pitch, pitch range, and speed rate.

Tweaking these 4 vocal characteristics and carefully choosing the verbiage being used can result in a voice that is similar to those living in the area.

Matching Mickey's tone of voice to its locality will create a positive affect for Mickey and in turn McDonalds.

Mickey will have a different set of vocal attributes depending on where the McDonalds and Mickey is located geographically.   

Conversational Flows

Conversations can go down many paths. While ordering from a menu greatly reduces the number of paths a conversation can take, there are still so many permutations of each, single path.

Anticipating how a conversation will go and keying in on words or phrases to keep the conversation going is critical when designing conversations. 

Anticipation alone will not be enough to keep Mickey from being hung up from time to time. It must able to repair the conversation and bring it back on a path that Mickey and its customers can take together. A live employee will be made available if Mickey cannot continue on.

As Mickey converses more with live customers, Mickey's machine learning will allow it to assign meaning to phrases that were at first unrecognizable. 


Sample Dialogue


Aaron Mayor, Experience Designer

My Role

Tools Used