Voice Prototypes in App Design

Voice activation minimizes effort demanded from the user, thus increasing the number of users willing to engage with an application. Since voice activation eliminates the need to type the traditional user search, it improves search engine efficiency.  According to an experiment performed at Stanford University, speech recognition writes text more quickly than users can type. In addition, enhancements can accommodate the complexity of consumer requests.

Using Voice in Apps

Voice elevates user experience through addition conveniences. For instance, reduces the time needed to accomplish tasks when integrated with business apps. This can allow professional users to schedule conference calls, schedule meetings, stay on top of to-do lists, and initiate important reminders.  Voice activation can also create a more efficient shortcut to financials, charts, or data.

Voice reduces friction during in-store experience. For example, voice-activated engagement with marketing gives consumers the ability to request specific promotions to be loaded onto loyalty cards in the consumer’s mobile wallet.

Using Target as an example, orders can be placed utilizing voice activation. Customers are given the option to link their Target accounts to Google. Voice-activation can be used in all sorts of e-commerce as well. Additional examples:

  • Domino Pizza’s voice-activated app to order food
  • Whirlpool’s voice-activated home appliances app in collaboration with Amazon’s Alexa to start or pause a load of laundry
  • PayPal’s voice-authorized payment transactions via Siri

Voice-activation is also literally driving engagement in the auto industry. In-car speech recognition systems are now an almost standard feature in most new vehicles on the market today. Voice-driven apps provide navigation and can eliminate texting while driving. They read and write emails and text messages for you so that you can keep your eyes, and hands, on the road.

Design Flow Process

The design flow process begins with wireframes, followed by mockups, and then prototypes.  The wireframe provides structure before the basic visual representation and content can be added. The mockup is very similar to what the finished product will look like and usually created to scale. It may be used for teaching or demonstration, but is not fully interactive.

The final stage involves the prototype. Prototyping means creating a draft of the application for a simulation of its appearance and usability. This step is critical for all types of app and web design. In this case, it allows you to interact with the user interface via voice to determine which elements work best and to foresee any complications in user experience. During this phase of the process, the designer(s) can gather user feedback for any final edits before the product rolls out.

What is Voice Prototyping?

voice prototype alexa amazonVoice prototyping can also be referred to as conversational design. It must focus on observing, understanding, anticipating, and mimicking what people actually say. In a sense, voice prototyping allows you to verbally roleplay with an application to assess its functionality. The test minimizes the risk of potential failure.

The more technical complexities a product has, the earlier prototyping should be done. This will allow more time for testing and assessment. Early voice prototyping will also allow more purposeful time to apply revisions to the application based on feedback and observations.

Five Steps to Developing a Voice Product:

Voice prototypes designers for apps must consider how users will perceive what words and phrases mean in voice interaction and conversation. In order to create conditions for success, certain steps should be followed.

voice prototyping design process

1.     User Research

  • Understand your target users’ needs and behaviors as the foundation for product requirements
  • Identify the target audience, their current experience, and their current pain points when interacting with the application
  • Identify their current user language or how they tend to communicate with others

2.     Define

  • Determine capabilities that will enhance or shape future products
  • Brainstorm and predict scenarios where users are most likely to engage in voice interaction. For example, “when” and “why”
    • When in the car: voice interaction may be used to start the car, play music, get directions, locate a business, make a phone call, or type a text message
    • When lying in bed: to turn off the lights or fan, to change the channel on the television, to turn music on or off.
    • When cooking: to find a recipe or set a timer

3.      Create

  • Use storyboards to create visual representations of scenarios where users will engage voice. Construct how they will get from point A to point B in a particular process or from a question to an answer.
  • Write dialogues that are likely to occur between the user and the application. Consider many different “routes” to get from point A to point B. Alternatively, consider many potential answers to the same question as users’ thought processes may vary.
  • Work to simplify the number of steps it takes to complete a task.
  • Simplify the experience by allowing communication to be more intuitive and conversational. Don’t attempt to enforce commands.
  • Simplify communication.  Focus on primary information in responses. Share only what is necessary to answer the inquiry.
  • Simplify “user errors.”  Build in ways for the system to help adapt to any misunderstandings between the user and the system, accents, or mispronounced words, etc.
  • Simplify the system’s persona relative to the company’s brand. Make the tone, sense of humor (if any), and personality a reflection of the brand and culture. Remember that allowing the user to customize voices could distort the brand image of the company.
  • Reinforce confidence. Have the application confirm with the user when a task is complete or acknowledge a command given. Also, have the application draw from previous context or dialogue. For instance, if the user asks to order pizza from Pizza Hut, the application’s persona could say, “Sure, last time you ordered a medium pizza with pepperoni and green peppers. Would you like to repeat that order?”

4.     Test

5.     Refine

Accessibility Advantages

google voice accessibilty

There are sixty-two million people in the US with motor and mobility impairment. This population includes, but is not limited to, those with Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, amputation, and paralysis. For these users and many others, voice technology has become a necessity.  It can also be helpful for those with chronic pain conditions by giving them the option to communicate without having to interact with a physical device. Voice technology can assist users with email and text communication, controlling home devices, managing bed functionality, and more.

In 2018, Google launched the Android App voice access. This feature helps people with mobility and motor impairments control their devices. With this app, users can get more specific with their controls. They can use their voice to tap buttons, adjust controls, and navigate various apps. Voice technology may also benefit users who have cognitive or learning disabilities like dyslexia and those who may struggle with spelling and grammar.  Applications with voice allow for inclusiveness for many users who may otherwise miss out on certain apps and devices.

Voice Prototype Challenges

Voice interaction represents the biggest UX challenge since the invention of the smartphone.  

The biggest potential challenge is real-time response. The code source of the application must be optimized properly so that the application connects with the server to translate the voice data into text. When there is a delay, the user experiences a loss of confidence in the process. Network availability confounds this issue outside the U.S. or outside the largest cities in the U.S.  

A lack of reliability in connection often causes issues with both access and user experience in many countries.  Users who are older or have speech impairment do not have confidence or comfortability with voice technology in general. Getting these users to adapt will be a long-term challenge.

In many cases, the ability to translate in a diversity of languages is a challenge.  If it is likely the application will be used internationally, the prototyping phase must include testing that converts voice data in multiple languages. In addition to languages, differing accents must also be considered. The application must be inclusive to minimize communication barriers.

Overall, it is important to make sure the app is designed to understand natural speech versus how users tend to type speech. A user will typically type in shorthand and in the fewest words possible.  When speaking into a voice application a user will speak as though having a dialogue with another human. The best voice prototypes will incorporate these very human qualities.

Voice Prototype App Toolsadobe xd voice prototyping tool

Source | adobe.com

  • Adobe XD Voice Command gives you access to all your assets in one centralized place.  It eliminates tedious manual tasks and has the ability to adapt experiences to any size screen.  Adobe XD provides the convenience of sharing prototypes securely with shareholders as needed.
  • UXpin allows for prototyping with functional and interactive elements generated from production code.  It allows for use of your own data in various formats, has vector drawing tools, and supports multi-player co-editing.
  • Framer X offers a 3D effect, rapid prototyping, multi-platform user interface kits, and responsive layouts.    
  • Justinmind has gesture support for touch screens, the ability to publish and share prototypes online, and the ability to test and validate the app prior to coding.
  • Marvel also allows for prototyping without the need for codes and the ability to add transitions and gestures. It allows you to pull in screens made from Sketch, Photoshop, the built-in design tool, your own images. In addition, you can add hotspots, interactions, and layers.  It also gives the option to share prototypes with clients and shareholders.

Voice Prototypes in App Design

The truth is, there are numerous tools that exist to create voice prototypes for app design, and each designer must find the best tool to meet the needs of their product and users. Voice-enabled technology, including apps, and those who develop them are needed more than ever as we move into the future.  According to pullstring.com, 50% of searches will be voice by 2020.  Voice recognition will be a $601M industry, and 29.9% of United States shoppers have already purchased using a voice app.

Voice-enabled technology, and the demand for it, are here to stay.  Companies must find a way to stay ahead of increasing consumer expectations around the voice experience with accuracy, context, comprehension, and conversational ability. Consumers will expect experiences with voice to not only be frictionless but also to continue to exceed their imaginative expectations. In your own voice prototyping, make sure you follow all the necessary steps.