While developing several Amazon Alexa Skills, Google Actions and testing those of other Conversational experts. I noticed a few simple things that will improve your voice app tremendously. These might seem very logical indeed, yet there are missing in quite some voice apps.
Tip 1: Create a persona.
Multiple articles can be written about the crucial factor a persona will have on your voice application. It all comes down to the fact that you want your brand to sound a certain way. Just like you have a design guideline some companies even have sonic branding guidelines. Have a persona let that guide your design process to get the right words your brand says and how calm, warm, or happy your brand sounds.
Tip 2: Think about the context of the user.
A voice application can be used on several devices in different contexts. Just think about a person sitting in the train on their way to work using voice via hearables, or mother with her two kids at home playing with a smart speaker, or a couple sitting in the car asking for restaurants nearby via their integrated voice system.
Each person is in a completely different setting and the voice commands have to be adjusted to the context. When a user is in a car they cannot many distractions. The answers have to be short and very well pronounced. While the mother in the living room with her kids might need more context or want more sound effects added to it to entertain the kids. As the person in the train wants their command to be completed in one time and no continues questions.
Knowing in which context the user is in, is knowing how extensive your conversational flow is and what areas you should focus on.
Tip 3: Have a fitting introduction.
Just like a conversation with another human being, first impressions are essential. Having the right introduction to your voice app is crucial. It immediately gives the user an impression of what they can expect. Not only content wise, what they can do with the voice app but also the brand experience.
Make sure your introduction conversation is not too long. If the first dialog is too long user might wonder off and does not pay enough attention to know what they can do with the voice app. Make sure you provide the right amount of information and use the right wording regarding your users.
Tip 4: Don’t tell the user exactly what commands to give.
Let a user speak and ask for the content they want in the words they use. Do not force them to say a specific line, such as ‘You can choose more car information by saying more car information’.
By carefully constructing your conversations with the right words. You still can get your point across without literally saying what the user should say.
Tip 5: Handle the misunderstood messages.
It is great when everything works as it should. However, one of the most important things in designing conversations for voice user interfaces is what to do when it doesn’t go right. How do you guide the user back to the so-called happy path? Where everything works as it should.
Depending how big or small your voice app is this will differ. If you have a bigger voice app you could look if you can see if you do understand a part of the sentence and put them into a category. For example, you did understand the word podcast but not the actual name of the podcast. So, you can suggest podcasts or ask if the user can say the name of the podcast again.
If you did not understand a thing try to find where in the bigger picture he is looking from and from there become more specific. For example, is the user search for radio, podcast, or music? If the user is looking for music, which genre is he/she interested in and continue to find it. Only if it fits with the context that the user is in (tip 2).
Tip 6: Test and adjust the length of speech.
A few sentences might seem like they are just a couple of short-spoken sentences. Nevertheless, when it is spoken out loud it feels quite long. Continuously test whether the sentences you write are as great to listen to as well.
Tip 7: Link to smart phones where necessary.
Not everything has to be handled by the voice user interfaces. In case there’s too much text or to many options you can send a message to the users’ smart phone. This can either be a web link or a certain page in your mobile app. By doing so you can let the user get the right information on a more suitable device.
Tip 8: Be prepared for general questions.
Voice User Interfaces are relatively new kind of interface. So, people do not really know how it works. Make sure your voice app can handle simple questions as, what can this app do, what do I have to say, or help me. Make sure you can help the users in case they need it to understand how a Voice interface in particularly works.
Tip 9: End on a positive note.
When closing your voice app make sure you let the user leave on a positive note. This can be done via a certain sound design or a spoken sentence. Regarding what the situation of closing the voice app is.
Tip 10: SSML really helps you a lot.
Last but certainly not least. If you do not create your own unique voice and do use that of the voice interfaces providers, Google or Amazon. Make sure you use SSML!
SSML is a small piece of code, which can adjust the intonations and breaks in sentences. By adding it your voice app will sound way better than it did before.