Voice user interface: why you should offer it
The rapid spread of the voice interface in digital systems for individual use poses a huge number of complex questions and problems for web designers. It is obvious that in the near future, voice interaction will become a real alternative to traditional visual interfaces, and in some ways even replace them completely.
Digital transformation will soon be in almost every aspect of our lives. As soon as consumers start talking with products, manufacturers will have to learn to meet user expectations by designing all the intricacies of voice interaction in advance. That is, to do all that they are doing now in relation to the visual interface.
What are voice technologies and interfaces
The voice interface is a software product that, using a voice or speech platform, allows the user and the computer to interact, starting automated processes. The task of such interfaces is to recognize and generate a person’s voice.
Voice interfaces are convenient when entering text is difficult or inconvenient. For example, while driving a car, the user can speak his request, dictate the desired address, check traffic jams in the navigator application. Or if the user performs too many tasks and cannot concentrate on one.
There are three important characteristics that voice interfaces should have:
- natural language
- unlimited vocabulary and grammar
The role of voice in online communication is growing slowly but surely. This is such as “OK, Google”, the introduction of voice messages in instant messengers, the appearance of audio versions in text publications, voice input in an increasing number of programs, sound speakers that grow wiser before our eyes and become knowledgeable assistants and interlocutors. In general, the voice interface is a very important trend that is useful to use rather than ignore.
Interestingly, the Z generation (born in the early 2000s) and the early representatives of the alpha generation (children born after the 2010s) are the last users to type texts using the keyboard.
The Marketingland observer, marketer Andrew Ruegger is sure of this, he wrote about this in his column. The next generation, in his opinion, will be represented exclusively by voice command users. According to him, queries such as “OK, Google” are becoming more common in search query reports. And we even see their growth in Google Trends.
That is why digital technologies are trying to listen to the commands that a person is saying, to determine emotions in their faces, thereby using a natural way of interacting with users. For example, Google in October 2017 presented the Pixel Buds wireless headphones that translate speech from a foreign language in real time.
According to the Narvar Consumer Report, customers are loyal to brands that prioritize communications. A survey of 1,500 online shoppers showed that up to 43% of consumers who use voice devices, such as Alexa or Siri, use a voice user interface for shopping, and half use these devices to compare and research services, products and in general what they are interested in.
The popularity of VUI
Reasons for the popularity of the voice user interface (VUI) are the ability of brands to create a more personal connection with their customers using their dedicated application or website. For example, a virtual voice assistant can use vocabulary or a type of humor that matches the temper, age, and values of the target market to provide results that more closely match the user’s desire. For example, when children ask Alexa about dinosaurs, they get results that are no more suitable for the paleontologist, but appropriate for their age.
Today, systems like Siri and Alexa can respond to comments with ridiculous answers or ridicule, and they are pretty knowledgeable when it comes to memes, pop links, new personalities, and TV shows.
Changes in the processing of natural language paved the way for a new revolution in our interaction with technology and now people increasingly prefer voice to the screen.
In 2020, website design needs a balance between the various technologies that together add website functionality and visual appeal. Its development using the voice interface will allow your customers to expand their customer base, being an important part of their branding strategy.
Offering this option can be difficult if your design team works exclusively with a graphical user interface. Also, your customers may not have an idea of what the interface offers. That is why at the design stage it is very important to identify clear indications of possible interaction options. Internet users browsing your client’s website should be aware of the functionality they use and have recommendations on how to find what they are looking for using only voice search.
Today, voice is the culmination of intuitive interfaces designed to democratize technology. Each advance along this path was dictated by the need to increase the speed and efficiency of devices, as well as to make interaction with them as simple and affordable as possible for as many people as possible.
Website designers may find it difficult to get a complete list of questions that brands or customers can ask their voice devices. Successful VUI training requires a deep understanding of the spoken language, as well as a deep understanding of the user’s expectations.
To create a complete product, you will need to conduct analytics and market research to understand the language used by consumers in various geographical and demographic areas, as well as their frequently asked questions that they may possibly ask. Although users do not expect genuine “two-way communication” from your voice option, they expect practical, useful, and interesting experience with your client’s VUI, which deserves frequent use.
Design stage selection
You may decide to simply add the voice user interface function to your existing UX user interface. Such new features reduce implementation, development, and work well with current graphical interfaces. However, the customer may want you to develop a product based solely on voice communications. This will mean a complete modernization, which will be devoid of visual cues.
A specialized VUI designer incorporates contextual knowledge into his design, although it is impossible to capture all the possible hints and context. Communication disruptions can be avoided by asking users what they need, as the system understands. Answers should be simple, using plain English, without slang. This feature will allow designers to identify common, specific needs and analyze how consumers make them at a linguistic level.
As soon as voice interaction becomes familiar to the bulk of users, designers will face the need to maintain their interest. As you can see from the above example, with voice communication, there are a lot of very different formulations, even for a clear binary choice. But it is this variation that provides web designers with great opportunities to engage users.
The center of pleasure is the part of the human brain that activates when we passionately want something. Any unpredictability stimulates this center perfectly. We become extremely careful when we cannot guess what will happen next – this partly explains the dependence on gambling, as well as the success of the OA series from Netflix.
Many advanced visual UX designers are actively using this neurological feature, and it will come in handy when we start talking with our devices. The variability of interaction with artificial intelligence is the key to its humanization, because of this, users sometimes attribute AI mood and even personality.
Speaking about the variety of potential answers, you need to pay special attention to the creation of meaningful error messages – because they should return the dialogue that has reached a dead end in the right direction and at the same time not annoy the user.
You must also ensure that users are not bogged down in the information. For example, sometimes your customer wants to provide their customers with different product options when asked a question. Your VUI system should not offer more than 2-3 units at a time, although a voice may ask users if they need more options. Otherwise, cognitive overload can lead to consumer inaction.
People will quickly lose interest in communication if a mechanical voice repeats monotonously: “Sorry, I haven’t found this information yet.”
Additional visual cues
With its help, consumers will enjoy a more dynamic experience and not get bored. Different forms of attention-grabbing like lights will let the user know that VUI is trying to find a way to fulfill their requests and is still listening to them.
Creating a “brand voice”
Regardless of the content of what was said, any voice tells the listener a huge amount of meta-information – which is why brands are so fond of using the voice environment to expand their impact. Gender, age, intonation, timbre, accent, rhythm, and pace – UX designers can use all of these elements to connect user experience with their client’s business.
Virgin America communicates with its passengers in the correct English, in a pleasant, intriguing voice – and clearly associated with it. But The New York Times prefers to use a more courageous and confident voice for its ads.
At Disneyland, your child will be able to talk with Mickey Mouse. And Apple found an insanely attractive and at the same time soothing voice for its new operating system (Scarlett Johansson from the movie “She”).
Ensure accessibility and privacy
You should also consider issues related to the availability of voice interaction for people with hearing loss, problems with speech, or simply who have lost their voice due to illness. For this category of users, the voice interface was extremely important long before it became popular.
According to Steve Spon, if voice-activated technologies are only an additional convenience for able-bodied people, then for disabled people this is the greatest gift – the opportunity to become independent.
People with disabilities in voice interaction are likely to lack intuitiveness and simplicity. Therefore, a serious challenge for designers can be the creation of a hybrid configuration that includes both audio and visual scripts for these categories of users. In particular, chatbots are very useful.
Speaking about the voice environment, one cannot but mention personal security issues, because we will have to face completely new risks and vulnerabilities.
Most modern voice-controlled devices, for the convenience of users, automatically memorize and store their accounts. However, sometimes this may not be in favor. Especially if one fine day the courier delivers you a package of sweets worth $ 100, and then you will understand why your six-year-old son is hiding his eyes from you.
It’s easy to fake a voice by recording how you pronounce the password out loud and also edit it to subsequently combine words into commands that you never gave. Moving your voice experience further is impossible without resolving privacy issues.
The advent of the voice interface is radically changing the approach to UX development – just like the advent of touchscreen smartphones once turned the way to web design. As voice interfaces evolve, designers will face the challenge of engaging users with branded AI assistants. And if at first, we will only talk about the thoughtful answers of the assistant, then over time they will have to work on creating holistic images that are closely related to a particular brand.
The voice user interface function continues to gain popularity. It grows, multiplies, and often completely replaces the visual UX design, turning into a new standard user interface.
We hope this article was useful and interesting for you. Stay tuned!