5 Tips to Design Lovable Conversations with Alexa

The potential is there but Alexa (and other voice platforms) is not delivering lovable experiences. More often than not they’re frustrating, very frustrating. Alexa doesn’t always understand you. Or you know she has the answer to your question but you can’t get her to share it. At times when you talk to her she even gives you the cold shoulder. And with conversation being our natural form of communication, users aren’t taking the blame for her shortcomings the way they might with computers and apps.

Here are my 5 tips to designing lovable experiences with Alexa (and other voice platforms) given the current technical constraints.

Tip #1: Keep it Fifty–Fifty

No one enjoys a one sided conversation. Alexa has the propensity to go off rambling, overloading you with too much information or the wrong information. Designers need to build checks into the conversation. Asking for validation that she is on the right track. Allowing the user to decide when and where they want more information. Example:

USER: Who was the shortest NBA player?
ALEXA: At 5'3“ Muggsy Bogues is the shortest NBA player. Can I tell you more about him?

Tip #2: Take Notes

It’s a good feeling when someone remembers the details of a past conversation. Retaining the information from questions asked and noticing preferences lends to a memorable and lovable experience. Make Alexa personable by listening and not just hearing the response.

Tip #3: Be Dynamic

Consistency is a great quality but keeping this fresh will keep people coming. Dynamic scripts are a great place to really add personality to your skill by providing multiple responses (or variation) for common requests.

USER: Alexa, what’s the weather?
ALEXA: It’s currently sunny and 72 degrees right now with a low of 58 degrees. You may want to pack a light jacket and an umbrella. There’s a chance of rain this afternoon.

Tip #4: Be Graceful

This may be the most important tip. Alexa must be graceful when the user breaks the skill. The good thing is that no one really has all the answers, but how that is communicated is key. And some times it’s just a case of misunderstanding the request. As designers we must expect and plan for this to happen. When Alexa finds herself in a situation where someone uses a word or a phrase she don’t know, speaks a little too fast, or mumbles she must clarify what was said and ask for repetition to confirm.

ALEXA: I want to make sure I heard you correctly. Can you say that again in a slightly different way?

Tip #5: Wrap it Up

Alexa also needs to wrap up the conversation and end it gracefully. On the business side of things, we want the user to stay in the skill for as long as possible but we must balance completing the job at hand and communicating the full capabilities and offerings of the skill. There’s a point in every conversation when everyone knows it’s time to wrap it up, but somehow, the discussion keeps trailing on. End things on a good note — and on time.

On that note, thanks for reading! I’d love to hear what are you learning as you build skills and master conversational UI. Please leave your learnings and your own tips in the comment section below.

Raika SarkettComment