Whether you like it or not Voice as a User Interface (UI), also known as VUI, is becoming increasingly commonplace and integral to our everyday lives. Digital Assistance like Siri or Cortana are on our phones, Amazon’s Alexa is taking over the home with Echo Dot, Spot and Show, Apple AirPods are controlled by Voice and they’re even in your cars such as Ford’s SYNC technology to make calls and get directions on your in-car screen, hands-free. When I heard Katy had launched her own Voice Design Studio, Altavox, I knew she’d be talented but I wasn’t prepared for what I learned from our conversation over coffee.
Designing for Voice has been something that a lot of design and digital agencies have added to their resume of skills on their websites, but without the case studies or substance to back it up. When searching for true case studies utilising Voice, the closest agencies and outfits seem to be in London. Up here in the North West, you’ll have to travel miles to get any sort of specialists in Voice. The only real case study I’ve read from someone based in Manchester is Common Good, who are now part of LovedBy.
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A quick look at the stats backs up how ripe an opportunity Voice is turning out to be. In April 2019 there are a recorded 22% of households who own a smart speaker in their home, and I don’t need to tell you about how many people own a smartphone with a digital assistant. Katy had a lightbulb moment and realised that there was a niche here that was being unfulfilled, where people wanted to experiment and try new things but weren’t dedicating enough time to learn the nuances and intricacies of designing for voice successfully.
Challenges in Voice
Designing for Voice is vastly different in nature to traditional Graphical User Interfaces (GUI’s), and necessitates a different skillset to that of a traditional UX or UI designer. We need to consider the context, the fact that you just have to *know* what you want that Voice assistant to do or make it easy to discover options. There’s a great deal of power in storytelling and opportunities to use Voice as a new channel, much like the Telephone, Internet and Social Media provided a new way to engage with content.
Not only that, but there are privacy concerns for anyone using Voice enabled devices and services. It’s no different to your web searches or using any existing digital service actually, but the perception is that it’s always listening to you and it could steal your information, money, identity or all of the above. Add in the simplicity and ease of use you need to layer in before even considering the nature of your idea or application and you’ve suddenly got a tricky problem to solve and not a great deal of existing talent or previous knowledge to build upon.
Finally, Voice is under-utilised as an accessibility option. Usability and accessibility is paramount to enabling everyone to have equal access and opportunity that the web brings, and it’s not just for impairments and disabilities. The elderly population is quickly growing and is in danger of putting a massive strain on the healthcare system with fewer and fewer younger adults entering the workforce. They have their own nuances and generally speak more naturally than those who grew up with technology.
How does this help you?
Voice is an interesting space to break into for sure, but it takes investment of your time and energy to develop the skills necessary and acquire the equipment needed to explore the solution space adequately. Let alone being aware of the nuances of Voice design. By having someone else that can do that exploration for you, you can test your ideas in record time without committing all your resources to it. Once validated, you can continue on to have your solution created in record time by Altavox knowing that you won’t have to make all the early adopter mistakes.
Who is Katy, anyway?
Katy Bass, Founder and CEO of Altavox, hails from Warrington (like me, funnily enough) and has previous experience primarily as a Digital Product Consultant and Marketing Executive. We bonded over our epiphanies from reading “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” and our love for the Spanish language and culture.
Fun fact: Altavox is a play-on-words of the Spanish word ‘altavoz’, meaning ‘loud speaker’ or literally translated ‘high voice’.
I have an idea for VUI!
Great stuff! Why not get in touch with Katy and see how she can help you integrate Voice into your new or existing product or service with minimal fuss?