Whether you’re an established User Experience (UX) professional looking to learn more about voice design or hoping to change career paths, designing for Voice User Interfaces (VUI’s) is a phenomenal string to add to your bow. The Conversational Design Course at the UX Academy is a fantastic opportunity to begin or flesh-out your portfolio. Having recently completing the course myself, I would encourage others to do so too. Maybe you’re on the fence, or you’re intrigued to learn more about how the course is run. Well, please look no further – I’ve shared my experience here so that you can get an idea of what exactly to expect!

Preferring face-to-face teaching, I opted against the online course. With a maximum of 12, the course stays personal, and I found the trainers to be incredibly approachable as questions and discussions were always welcomed. Other students were enthusiastic and invested too, which was encouraging and inspiring. All students are added to a Slack channel to allow swift communication within teams and also to trainers. This is particularly useful if you have a question regarding the homework or the design project outside of class sessions. The course runs for 6 weeks on Wednesday evenings for 2.5 hours, with a certain amount of homework. This course offers three trainers, each experts in UX research and development. This appealed to me as it gives students a broader picture of VUI’s as a whole and the opportunity to learn best practices from different perspectives.

How VUI has improved?

Our first trainer was Stratis Valachis, the Lead User Experience Designer at Condé Nast. Stratis introduced us to VUI’s, and how voice UX has improved over the years thanks to recent progress in both machine learning and cloud computing. Students are assigned project teams in the first class and you work together to develop your project over the six weeks. Although working in teams, the work is delegated such that each student gains experience in all aspects of the design process throughout the course. The project brief was to design a hypothetical skill for an existing brand. With the brief outlined, we were given our first homework assignment of conducting exploratory research and creating a provisional persona.

Week two met our second trainer Kane Simms, Founder and Host of VUX World. He described the session as “a voice design sprint crammed into an hour and a half.” Amongst many things, Kane described how tools such as ‘How Might We’ can be used to frame problems as opportunities. Week three found us reunited with Stratis who introduced us to best practices and patterns for VUI design, with regards to starting, exiting and repairing conversations. We also met Goncalo Andrade, a Senior UX Designer at Condé Nast International, as we were introduced to the Amazon Developer Console and VoiceFlow – invaluable tools for forming and monitoring VUI prototypes.

In week four we met our third trainer Kristina Csanaky, a Voice UX & Conversation Designer at Voxly. We were also introduced to Adobe XD, SSML and Polly services, and explored Voiceflow in detail. We were lead by Kane Simms again in Week five, who focused the class on multimodal experiences, how to design for them and how to implement these in VoiceFlow. We met back with Stratis for our final class in week six. Stratis outlined guidelines for our upcoming presentations such as showing evidence of iteration based on research insights and a walkthrough of the design process including design artefact samples. This session, as well as the final presentation, offered a wonderful opportunity to present our designs and receive feedback and insight.

The course is organised to allow the natural progression of the project brief – from picking the right use cases for voice in Week one all the way through to publishing and monitoring the completed skill in week six. Each class equips students with the necessary skills to complete the subsequent task in the design process. This is a fantastic way to practise new-found skills as you go with the assistance of expert trainers because you are building on the same project throughout.