Three key points for voice interface design

Imagine asking a friend for something and receive a blank stare in response, not ideal, right? Well, imagine not even having a face to look at and getting radio-silence from a device you also paid for. That’s frustrating!

1. Give and collect feedback

When designing for voice interaction, the fundamental part is to design for failure: test your flows with real users and make sure you cover as many unexpected paths as possible.

Grasping all the possible interactions is pretty much impossible, as every human has their own way of communicating, so iteration and feedback loop are more important than ever.

Feedback from the device needs to be immediate, and touching different senses (light and sound as most common).

Most important, it should always offer clear directions for users to get back “on track” when lost in the feature.

2. Tone of voice

The AI’s tone of voice and vocabulary choice is the only chance you get at sharing your brand’s personality.

In order to feel comfortable talking with someone, you need to trust they are paying attention to you. Trusting a device is naturally difficult, and it can be impossible if the voice engages in the conversation in a way you weren’t expecting.

It’s necessary to empathise with the context your users will be when using this service. Although it might be difficult to limit light humour or sarcasm, they are inappropriate in certain environments.

Understanding what your users want to hear is fundamental for them to trust the assistant with delicate tasks. You might be okay with your VA making a pun about your morning alarm, but would you welcome a joke when making a bank transaction? Or would you rather a more serious approach?

3. Onboarding

There’s not much point or reward in throwing a lot of work at a service that will get lost in an over-saturated market of apps and services.

Creating traction is just as important as the service itself. We ran a survey with participants who own a smart home device and 65% didn’t know it is possible to send money PayPal using Alexa.

Only the 25% was aware of the possibility of ordering food.

When onboarding users, limit the information and communicate direct, straight forward steps that can be easily remembered.

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