Alexa, How Do I Design a Great Voice Experience?

Creating voice skills is something on every brand’s radar – and if it’s not, it should be. Last year, the number of customers who spoke to Alexa was in the tens of billions times more than it was in 2017. And, on top of that, the Alexa Dot was the number one selling product on Amazon globally during the 2018 holiday season. Not just out of Amazon products, not just out of voice products, but of all products. These quick stats point to the clear direction of consumers and brands need to pay attention.

That said, designing voice skills is a relatively new capability. And, it’s not as easy as it seems. You need to think about it with a whole new lens. Our Chief Creative Officer, Ricardo Salema, spoke about how you should think about it and using Missing Link Adventures as a guidepost.

So, where do you start?

Make sure your idea is a good fit for voice.

While it’s incredibly tempting to dive into a voice skill, you really need to think about it first. Don’t retrofit an idea for voice – it won’t be effective. You need to have an idea that makes sense for voice or it will not be successful. Don’t do voice for the sake of doing voice. This is something that we have said about all emerging technologies (whether it be AR, VR, etc.) and it stands true here. You should certainly be thinking about how you can jump in on voice, but if it doesn’t work, it won’t work.

Identify your users.

The range of ages interacting with these platforms is vast — from children to the elderly. And, sometimes you have both children and adults interacting with the same experience. All of those things need to be kept in mind when designing. For instance, if you’re designing an experience you want an entire family to engage with (like Missing Link Adventures, for instance), you may want to include a little something for everyone. It needs to be child friendly, but simultaneously something that parents won’t be bored with.

Kids treat voice assistants as if they were friends. Therefore, the younger the audience, the more interactive the experience should be.

Give them what they want. Speak their language. Stay timely. Know them well.

New Best Practices:

  • Dialog should be natural and memorable. Without natural dialog, users will not be interested in interacting with the experience – this may sound obvious, but you will often come across very unnatural voice experiences. For Missing Link Adventures, we even used the movie characters to bring users as far into the experience as possible.
  • Reorient users
  • Specifically, if it is a particularly long experience (like Missing Link Adventures), it is essential to make sure you are letting your user know where they are in the experience since there are no visual queues.
  • Chunk information
  • Small bites of information are necessary – people can’t absorb long information in text let alone voice.
  • Write for the ear
  • It’s important to keep it simple. The more complex something is, the less likely people are to stay engaged.
  • Minimize pressure
  • Alexa, for instance, has a seven second wait period before it understands the response. That should be the minimum amount of time so people don’t feel pressured to shoot out answers in an unrealistic time period.
  • Alert the platform
  • Bring in Google, Apple, Amazon (or whoever it is) earlier rather than later. Speaking from experience, the earlier you can bring in the platform partner, the better. In our case, bringing in Amazon allowed us to garner additional exposure for the skill, including “Amazon Staff Picks!” which helped us boost engagement.

To close things out, Ricardo left us with the following:

“Welcome to the Age of Conversation! We’ve all been working in the digital space for years. This is still digital but it’s new. It’s a completely different pattern of interaction. There is a universal need to feel connected and voice is a new part of this. Voice creates opportunities for seamless, effortless interaction with other people, brands and experiences.”