Voice Interface Designers: Who They Are and What They Do

There are more and more voice interfaces in the world today than ever before. Everyone knows Siri from Apple, Alice from Yandex, and Alexa from Amazon. But there are also many niche chatbots, as well as bots for businesses. They all communicate with millions of users every day. Both developers and users want to make these communications more convenient and efficient, so professionals who dedicate themselves to this endeavor have started to appear. They are called Voice Interface Designers. 

What Do Voice Interface Designers Do

The main objective of a Conversation Design or Voice Interface Design is to create custom dialogues. Success here is measured by the depth of the conversation, the number of replicas and user satisfaction. In some scenarios, voice interfaces (VUIs) are more efficient than graphical interfaces (GUIs). And the voice UX/UI designer’s task is to find and implement such scenarios in a way that gets the user to switch to them. There are already a number of situations where this is the case  – for example, phone communication, in the car, in the kitchen while preparing dinner, etc.

It’s not easy to come up with dialogue for these scenarios. But it’s even more challenging to make such a dialogue look natural and not like you’re communicating with a robot.

There are different ways to achieve this. A designer might include metaphors. It turns out that the use of this literary tool makes the dialogue more familiar to the user and increases user conversion. 

  • For example, for the statement  “Turn on the light in the hallway”, if there are no bulbs in this room, Alexa will say something like this: “Sorry, I can not find any connected bulbs”. Siri will respond differently: “Devices in this room are not connected. “ 
  • The difference between the two answers is that Alexa uses the phrase “I can not find”.  Another version of her response was the phrase “I do not see any devices.” Of course, we understand that she can neither “find” nor “see” things,  but at the same time, the very use of natural-sounding phrases makes the conversation more comfortable.

VI Designer Mission

The goal of the VI design is to help the user access the product naturally. It’s tough to create the illusion that a human is communicating with another human and not a robot. But, that is your ultimate goal. 

It is essential not to give the user a lot of information to listen to. Take for example a job search engine. If the system finds several suitable vacancies, we cannot immediately voice them all together with the conditions, because then the user will have to listen to this information for several minutes. Listening to information for people is a passive activity. It is effortless. Yet it can also lose user attention here. 

In Google Assistant, when scoring search results, this moment is also taken into account, and Assistant does not say all the results at once, but first references only the most relevant one. It would help if you also were prepared for non-standard use cases.

In each interaction with the user, it is necessary to preserve the principle of dialogue.  Be as human as possible. For example, the phrase “Your request has been accepted” should be changed to “I understand you.” Even though we often use more mechanical phrases in GUIs, it is worth considering that the paradigm of perception of these communications in humans has changed. If earlier people communicated with a website, a program or some abstract system, now they interact with an assistant who has a name, who knows a lot about the user, can maintain a conversation and even makes jokes.

Google Home

In addition to designing the dialogue itself, its branches, and phrases, it is also necessary to consider non-standard cases. For example, when a user interrupts a robot or answers a question with a question. There are, of course, technical limitations, so the Conversation Designer works very closely with the developers. 

You can also analyze user speech. For example, to understand when someone is aggressive or decisive, and to build dialogue dependent on this. Technologies provide more and more opportunities for improvement in this area, so the number of features will only grow.

Large tech giants have their guidelines for voice and dialogue interfaces. For example, directions from Google are available.

Career opportunities for voice interface designers

Now let us have a look at what prospects you have if you decide to start your career as a voice interface designer.

Which companies recruit these specialists

In the United States, a simple LinkedIn search gives you hundreds of jobs. Large technology companies like Amazon and Google are also hiring, as well as a vast number of startups. UX/UI design agencies that develop customizable interfaces for software systems and applications are also interested in expanding their opportunities. It’s hard not to notice the growing number of positions for specialists in this field – the demand for which will only continue to increase.

Pre-Requisites to Becoming a VI Designer

The market has not yet formed precise requirements, so many companies are experimenting with people with entirely different backgrounds. Usually, companies choose linguists, and that’s a good choice. They understand the structure of language, the etymology of words, and literary techniques. Some require copywriting experience or a technical degree for these positions, but professional education is rather unnecessary here. 

Summing Up 

Voice interface design is still a relatively young field. Therefore, if you or your friends do not have a technical degree, but still wish to join the world of technology and innovation, working on dialogue systems and similar professions can open up new possibilities to enter the world of IT.