A while ago, I attended the VOICE summit sponsored by Amazon Alexa. There were a number of great panels that gave insights about the conversational design ecosystem and how we can create better experiences in Zero UI. Through speech recognition technology, voice apps (known as Skills in the Alexa ecosystem) allow users to execute a number of programs and searches seamlessly. While the current AI tech to create those experiences is limited, there is a good chance that voice will be a key interface for human to technology communication in the future. Here are some of the findings about the increasing demand for voice search:
1. 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020, per comScore.
2. About 30% of all searches will be done without a screen by 2020, per Gartner.
3. 13% of all households in the United States owned a smart speaker in 2017, per OC&C Strategy Consultants. That number is predicted to rise to 55% by 2022.
If Voice is becoming the next step in Customer Experience, then how can we be prepared and design around these interfaces?
Building relevant and custom experiences for the user is the key when designing voice apps. User demographics, habits, expectations and conversational behaviors from the voice apps will allow you to create your targeted audience. Here are some suggestions for how voice apps can create context:
Customized assistance, recommendations and utility
Voice apps can help the user to schedule doctor appointments, manage their calendar, and make purchases. Focus on your services and the type of users that are likely to use those services. For instance, if there are multiple users at one time, Alexa needs to understand or ask who they are during initial setup. Either through voice recognition or simply asking “Who Am I speaking to?” can help the device adapt its tone and language based on its immediate audience.
Reduced Complexity and Convenience
Voice users prefer to make online purchases through Voice apps to reduce screen time and multitask. Currently the one-size-fits-all approach is very common in shopping. For example there is currently no way for users to easily go back and forth to compare options. Because the voice apps have no past memory, the app doesn’t give all the information about one alternative to their working memory in order to compare that item with the following ones. Voice apps can work around this issue by filtering items by Lowest Priced, Most Purchased, and Most Reviewed to make comparing easier.
The limited technology in Voice creates new challenges for the interactive experience. Eliminating a visual display completely and using a virtual assistant is only possible for simpler interactions. That said, if the technology continues to get better and we start designing new ways for users to truly talk to these virtual assistants, finding exactly what you’re looking for will never be simpler.