As we gradually make the shift from graphical interfaces to voice, we see an interesting collection of thoughts on how Voice Interface will impact products, services and ultimately our lifestyles. As Alankar Sudarsan humorously says in this post “Who wouldn’t welcome “Jarvis” from Ironman and “Samantha” from “Her” into their lives to help them do better and faster tasks? Won’t you?” Like UX for websites, applications etc, getting the experience right for Voice Enabled or Voice-based interfaces is crucial. As we witness an inevitable move towards a screenless future, Voice experience will fast become the next frontier for brands.
According to research by eMarketer and VoiceLabs, consumers are embracing voice technology at a rate unprecedented. They predicted that, by 2028, 50% of all computer interactions will be conducted via voice-mediated artificial intelligence. Right now, we are experiencing the Voice revolution via Assistants; Alexa, Amazon Echo, Google Home in the near future we’ll have more personalized, high-cognitive use of Voice, which translates to the need for designing Voice Experiences that are intuitive and tangible.
Defining Voice Experience
It’s been reiterated over and over that “voice is the new touch”. Voice interaction — the ability to speak to your devices, and have them understand and act upon whatever you’re asking them — is poised to impact UX design, just as mobile touchscreens turned web design on its head. Voice interaction is on its way to becoming an inherently expected offering or highly demanded option or even a full replacement to, traditional visual interfaces. Voice interface helps users initiate automated service or process with natural language in conversations, to help users achieve their goals.
How then do we design great voice experience to help users get what they need and achieve goals as fast as possible?
Understanding Why Voice Interface & Experience Matters
Voice Interface allows a user to interact with computer or mobile or other electronic devices through speech or voice commands. As pontificated in our conversational interface post, Voice Interface is an interface design that allows users to talk with either real humans or bots, facilitating frictionless experiences for a user working with a computer.
In this precise and congruent article on Wikipedia, the importance of embracing Voice is reiterated “Currently, Pocket-size devices, such as mobile phones, rely on small buttons or touch-screen interface for user input. Extensive button-pressing on devices with such small buttons can be tedious and inaccurate, so an easy-to-use, accurate, and reliable VUI would potentially be a major breakthrough in the ease of their use. Moreover, keyboard use typically entails either sitting or standing stationary in front of the connected display; by contrast, a VUI would free the user to be far more mobile, as speech input eliminates the need to look at a keyboard.
Hand-held devices would be designed with larger, easier-to-view screens, as no keyboard would be required. Touch-screen devices would no longer need to split the display between content and an on-screen keyboard, thus providing full-screen viewing of the content. Laptop computers could essentially be cut in half in terms of size, as the keyboard half would be eliminated and all internal components would be integrated behind the display, effectively resulting in a simple tablet computer…Television remote controls and keypads on dozens of other devices, from microwave ovens to photocopiers, could also be eliminated.”
How to Think About the UX of Voice aka Voice Experience
Considering that VX upholds the minimalist model of ‘less is more’ how do designers, brands and other stakeholders approach ensuring/creating voice experiences. Here are a couple of pointers and mindsets:
Assistant’s Personality — Tone (formal or informal?), choice of voice, Language and vocabulary, Pronunciations etc.
The right Prompts that triggers when the bot/assistant gets to speak. As Kore states in this article “Designing a conversation is not just about creating nice prompts, it is also important for the assistant to know when it should shut up. Designers should be wary about over-informing the user.”
Natural Language training to make bots understand and respond to humans the way humans speak/flow in conversations.
Deciding on Command-and-control vs Conversational in indicating whether there is a free flow of conversation between the assistant/bot and the user or if its a command-prompt situation like you have with Alexa.
Circling back to the main crux of the post, the shift from visual UX to VX is already here and it’s Natural Language inherence makes it awesome. Designers, brands and product builders should look at how this helps their users access information easily and imbibe it into the heart of their work.