VUI and User Delight

What are Users Looking For in Voice Experiences?

Designing for voice is not simply designing for screen and adding voice. It requires completely rethinking the information architecture. There are design challenges, but also opportunities to delight each user. When it works well, VUI (voice user interface) can be fun as well as informative.

Traditional screen architecture has a nested hierarchy to accommodate the limitations of pixels. With voice architecture, all options can be top level. Instead of clicking through menus to get to a topic, users can ask for exactly what they want.  For example, “I’d like to go surfing in Hawaii.” No need to drill down through travel, Hawaii, or activities.

Using VUI is cooperative rather than declarative, with a call-and-response between the user and the device. With a knowledgeable designer, users feel like they are having a conversation that feels natural. Minor inflections and conversational pauses add personality to the device. In this case, fine tuning is not related to pixels or color, but rather to the need for communication to sound more human.

While conversational interfaces are exciting and offer a new and interesting way to interact with users, the screen is not dead! In fact, the convergence of voice and screen-based interactions can often provide the best user experience and continuing opportunities to delight. These multimodal experiences are one of the directional trends in VUI, which we’ll discuss in a future post.


Keep it simple, and iterate

We speak, read, and listen at different speeds. Blocks of text work on a screen, but make for a detrimental experience in Voice. This means keeping the phrasing and interactions short and simple, and avoiding complexity in the experience for the users (and potentially for the team working on the project).

One advantage of analytics in voice compared to traditional web analytics is that you can actually read customer inputs. We may or may not be able to suss out why a user clicked the way they did but voice analytics will provide their utterances, indicating what the user was actually trying to accomplish. Use these analytics to iterate on the experience.

We’ll dive more into an approach on design next week.

Next week: Basic Principles for Designing VUI