The last article about the Top UX trends wraps up the series perfectly by introducing a new (or rediscovered?) user interface format. In an age when AI is on the rise, smart speakers are the hardware that enables it to communicate with the physical world.
And, as indicated by the report by Deloitte Global, their demand is growing steadily in 2019, a trend that will continue into 2020. And the way they will be used will go far beyond speakers for playing music or a gadget to give you the weather forecast. With the increase in sales reported by Deloitte, use of a voice interface will become more common than it is currently, although it still may not dominate. In part, this is because voice recognition may not be the best option in every environment and context. Nevertheless, there are certain benefits to using voice recognition and voice interfaces, as Deloitte claims:
“For the Web to be truly worldwide, there are two options: to make the whole world literate, or to offer voice-enabled computing to everyone. The latter approach may be easier.”
An example of the impressive effects of good Voice UI is skillfully depicted in the award-winning film Her, released back in 2013. In the movie, the main character falls in love with a virtual personal assistant, voiced by Scarlett Johansson. For those who want their users to fall in love, figuratively or maybe literally, with their services, without wanting to overuse the power of celebrities, we have prepared a few tips for improving the UX of voice interface.
Create a non-verbal dialogue
Giving feedback to users about the results of their actions plays a crucial role in creating a good user experience. It allows them to understand what is going on beyond the interface of the application. This may take a visual or an aural form: the sound of a new file being created, pop-up windows announcing failure or success, or a confirmation email.
For voice user interfaces, it may seem obvious to have feedback in audio form; however, most successful user interfaces feature a visual one as well. For example, the Echo device featuring the Alexa personal assistant by Amazon switches the lights on or off according to a response to the user’s request. Likewise, Google Home blinks on its LEDs when activated. When Siri is listening to your request, you also see a visual, that slightly resembles breathing, signifying that you are being heard.
So, although it may seem ironic, one of the most important details of a voice interface is the visual elements it features, which in a way replaces the mimicking and gesturing of human communication.
Make it human-like
Continuing with the idea of the previous paragraph, the next tip for creating a better voice UI would be to have it reflect human communication. Some may say that a person relying on a Robo advisor does not need this kind of pretense, but no matter how sophisticated our tech becomes, we still need human interaction regardless of how much AI and how many robots we surround ourselves within our daily lives.
This is why the best VUIs integrate humanity in their UX — hopefully not to create a substitute for human connection, but rather to replicate it. The best known VUI devices have human names and voices, but more importantly, they have been given great character layers by their UX designers. Again, many designers are skilled at incorporating humanity into their products — it's just a matter of injecting that extra little bit of personality in the interface.
A nice way to add that human touch to the voice user interface is to imagine it as an aspect of conversational UX, a common design trend that is colloquial for chatbots. If you or your UX design agency has created a quality chatbot, you already have the abilities needed to give a cold, robotic AI some life and personality.
Teach and guide your users
There is one controversial issue inside the UX community — some designers find guides helpful, even necessary, while others find that the experience architect has failed if one is needed. However, no matter where you side in this controversy, it is essential for users to gain an understanding equivalent to that provided by guides and tutorials in the voice interface domain.
Tutorials for this purpose may not be tutorials in the traditional sense. The idea behind the entire concept of a voice personal assistant is to make them a natural component. Nevertheless, we are not yet at the stage of development where this can be done flawlessly, for example in terms of conveying context.
Once again, Siri is a good example. The tutorial to using Siri is nothing more than some examples of usable commands.
Do you know what “KISS” stands for among UX designers? “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” And this golden rule is not only relevant for voice user interface design, it is more essential than ever before. Since this technology is still quite new, it will take time for it to enter the mainstream and become completely intuitive for everyone. This is why it should be as simple as possible to develop a habit of using the voice interface. And in this case, simple also means familiar or - as we have already mentioned - human-like.
The UX principles that direct website and app design are the same as for VUIs and other new techniques, and there is a reason for that. The design of the user experience is much older than the internet or even the first laptop. It's an ancient practice identified fundamentally as creating something that can be used entirely.