Voice User Experience. Are we closer to design best practices?

In the last few years, we witness the incredible growth of the Voice User Interface, or VUI, across various use cases, segments, languages and more. See my previous observations about user experience & privacy and what to expect in VUI, as an example.

Yet, although VUI becomes a standard part of a product design, a bigger question, or a notion, becomes increasingly present in many different parts of the eco system: Voice Design. How should the VUI be part of the considerations during a product or service design process and what are the best practices for VUI design and implementation?

Voice technologies are in their infancy stage, as indicated by this Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies – where “Virtual Assistants” is marked for “Plateau of Productivity” by 2023. (NOTE: this report target the Virtual Assistants – which is only part of the emerging voice technologies available today).

While Voice Tech presents a huge potential for so many segments, it seems that one of the challenges the industry will be facing is the lack of proper, well defined, consensual best practices and implementations paradigm.

As an innovative and disruptive technology, VUI is part of many design sprints and innovative workshops, mostly surrounding User Experience (UX), accessibility, efficiency and productivity. ‘Experience’ is key for the envisioned solution, since the VUI brings a new way for us, human beings, to interact with a digital service, device or solution.

We start to witness first releases of design guides, and instructions, mostly within a certain voice platform (Smart Speakers) – aiming at deciphering user engagement with the service, “Skill” or “Action” discovery (these are the “apps” of the smart speaker market place), responsiveness, and more. Many of these guides are aiming at sharing an experience of developing a specific design practice, for instance – see this BBC guide as to building a smart speaker skill for a Children related activity. Another interesting guide, which provides a wider angle in terms of use cases and planning of the VUI is published by Wunderman – a global data and technology design agency.

 

Image Source: Wunderman post.

While we interact with customers in various segments and use cases, including Retail, Pharma, Transportation, Healthcare, Defense, and more, we believe these aspects of VUI design, would represent the building blocks of a voice technology best practice:

  • How? – How will the user interact with the service? is the voice interface planned to be implemented in a mobile app, smart device, in-store kiosk device, web service?
  • What? – the very basic – what does this service planned to offer – in voice? Salesman capturing opportunity data? Consumer activates smart home? User search and order a product?
  • Triggering – is it an always listening service (requires a wake up word, may be effected by privacy issues) or it needs to be triggered;
  • Data – how does data transaction related to the service. Is it important to keep all data secured privately or it can be shared with a platform cloud vendor?
  • Languages, Accents, User’s Factors – Is the service planed to support different types of users and languages? Will there be elderly and non-tech-savvy users? Will it be expected to work in a loud environment?
  • Content and Context – based on the service provided – will the context be static, dynamic, personalized, etc?
  • Brand \ Persona – does the feedback from the application or service has its own persona (brand, etc), is it a visual, vocal or both;
  • Information – along with the ‘Data’ item above – does the data captured during user’s transaction be used for additional purpose, once e.g. it is analyzed (frequently used terms, time of use, purpose, etc).

We believe that discussing these items is essential when implementing a voice interface – across any use case, and once extracting the specific insights, one could have a better path towards a well deployed voice solution.

What’s next?

If you’re in charge of customer experience, innovation or product – you need to start planning your voice strategy, and there are several articles about it online. Or you can talk to us.

Tukuoro is the Voice Open Platform. The best practices outlined in this article are based on the experience Tukuoro team gained while working with customers, in the various use cases and design discussions.

Reach out to us and learn how to make your interface Voice enabled.

Follow us on TwitterFacebook or LinkedIn.

Contact me for more;