While the design and deployment of a service should not be driven by technology choices, voice interfaces represent both an entirely new way of digitally engaging with people and a reach that’s so rapidly growing that it is impossible to not consider.
By 2021, the number of US voice assistant users will reach 122.7 million, representing 42.2% of US internet users and 36.6% of the US population. (https://www.emarketer.com/content/voice-assistant-use-reaches-critical-mass)
Sometimes the voice experiences we have are quite simple; using an Alexa or Google Assistant based device, we can reach functionality similar to a stand alone widget like you might find on your phone. Tell me the weather, set a timer, etc. In other cases voice experiences are being designed in conjunction with other interfaces and modalities; as a means to expand a service to have more touch points.
We’re just at the very beginning of realising the value of voice experiences - voice and conversational experiences have certain qualities that lend itself to a holistic, service design mentality:
- Implicitly creates a more personal relationship by having a direct conversational interaction
- Highly “embeddable” and “integratable” - can be placed within many contexts - from retail to hospitality, to integrated into many existing products, creating a sense of full coverage and ubiquity of service
- Is a distinct modality that can be used in conjunction with other interaction modalities, such as with touch, keyboards, mixed reality, etc.
Voice has been readily adopted by brand-centric organisations, with Alexa Skills or Google Actions providing frameworks that enable creation of simple, often fun functions and content marketing that can represent their tone of voice. While rarely a technical challenge, these types of experiences still require considerable design choices, and should be prototyped and tested before shipping.
- Tone of voice
- Which content is best represented in a voice / conversational experience?
- Dialogue design
- Intent design
Understanding the wide world of voice options
Initially, most companies will find that the voice experiences they can create are predominately "on-rails" - limited by the Skills or Actions developer tools. But an increasing amount of services require more nuance and capability, including the ability to better integrate the service touch points between interfaces - screens and applications, in cars, appliances, and even integrated into work or city infrastructure. As soon as one wanders out beyond the provided technology stacks, new frontiers opens up which will require the development of new expertise.
- Purpose of voice interaction in conjunction with other app or service touch points (i.e., how does this work as a holistic service?)
- How voice will fit into a multimodal experience (e.g., how does this integrate into my AR control?)
- Design considerations of custom conversational flows
- How to create requirements for custom AI / ML development
No matter where you’re at with integrating voice into your broader digital service or product, a common challenge is to get your hands dirty and make designing voice experiences “tangible”. While screen-based experiences are easily documented in a presentation or captured on a whiteboard (both visual expressions), the methodologies for capturing conversational experience in documentation are at best nascent, but all the same, very much required.
Check out Topp's Hand's-On Masterclass in Designing Voice Interfaces:
- Content based on Topp's expert experiences and insights from designing emerging voice interfaces with the world's largest companies
- Build working voice prototypes that you will explore, test and iterate around
- Work with other passionate designers, product owners, technologists, and visionaries
- Learnings that you can deploy to your team or project