Voice design (VUI) is an emerging field in the design industry. It involves actively planning and mapping all interactions that can potentially take place between a voice assistant and user. The goal is to make interactions with voice assistants feel natural, providing users with hands-free convenience and time-saving benefits.
A Stanford study found that speaking is at least four times faster than typing on a touch screen device. Thus, voice design becomes an excellent input method for information-heavy tasks like filling complex forms and searching from a large inventory of items.
Users often face difficulty in locating rarely used features like vacation responder or signature in a new email client system. By implementing voice design, users can simply use voice commands to access the desired settings. As a result, the process is more intuitive and efficient. This voice feature is already widely used in cars, with over a third of US driver utilising voice commands on a monthly basis.
Voice user interfaces (VUI) actively understand different ways of expressing the same idea. Take the vacation responder example, the user might refer to the feature as something else such as “Out of Office”. With VUIs, the designer can account for different synonyms and expressions used for the same feature. No matter how the user expresses their request, the VUI will respond accordingly to ensure a seamless and user-friendly experience.
VUIs actively allow the user to focus their attention on other tasks, proving particularly valuable when driving a car as it enhances safety and productivity. It can also allow users to multitask within an application. For example, in gaming players can easily change a camera angle or switch weapons without navigating through complex menus.
While accessibility is essential for individuals with impairments, it also brings benefits to all users. Voice features cater to people that are unable to use a keyboard and mouse, those with chronic conditions like repetitive stress injuries, and individuals with cognitive disabilities.
Why is voice design important?
Voice assistants, such as Alexa, Google’s assistant, and Siri, play a significant role in our daily lives and their prominence is expected to continue to grow. Many consumers use smart speakers daily, indicating widespread adoption of voice technology. It is crucial for companies to embrace this voice technology to stay competitive and engaging. For voice design to reach its full potential it must be designed properly.
Principles of voice design
Voice designers should follow principles:
- VUI should be useful – it should fulfil a need.
- Empathise with users – designers should understand users’ wants, reactions, and responses.
- Easy to use – the system should allow users to speak naturally.
- Credibility – the VUI should provide credible and trustworthy information.
- No hierarchy – all options should be kept available.
- Relatability – the voice assistant should be relatable, allowing the voice assistant to talk with the users rather than at them.
Monetising voice design
As voice design continues to grow, companies are using it to enhance customer experiences and increase profitability. Companies are experimenting with conversational ads and voice search abilities, transforming one-way marketing into a two-way conversation.
Companies employ chatbots to provide valuable information like product recommendations and store details. Chatbots can upsell products based on customer profiles, preferences, and purchase history. As a result, this empowers companies to influence customer decisions before and after they have made a purchase.
Applications of voice design
- Microsoft integrated Cortana into Outlook for iOS, enabling Apple users to utilise it for scheduling notifications, reading and sending emails, and managing email actions.
- Banking – users can access account statements, pay mortgages and loans, and transfer between accounts using smart speakers.
- Healthcare – voice assistants can eliminate unnecessary paperwork, allowing emergency responders to focus on the needs of the patient.
- Hospitality – Google Assistants have been used to assist guests with translations.
- Travel – travel companies have provided voice-first services and restaurants have utilised voice ordering.
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