At Furthermore we’re forever discussing how our role as designers is changing. Every year we see major changes to the design industry and as a result our responsibilities and skill-set evolve.
History is littered with innovations that have each been a catalyst for a major shift in design thinking. It’s often after time has passed that you realise the significance of the shift. A great example, I remember from the ’90s is the legendary Netscape Navigator, for the first time a browser could load parts of a webpage before the whole page was loaded — this seemingly small change revolutionised the browsing experience for the user, saving valuable seconds as you excitedly surfed from one page to another.
The same could be said for Cascading Style Sheets, suddenly people with little or no coding skills could understand how a website was made, designers could discuss builds on a level playing field with developers and even create them for themselves. This level of understanding meant designers started to think about the challenges they faced in different ways.
In 2007, Apple released the iPhone, suddenly phones with physical keyboards were obsolete and as a result we embraced skeuomorphism, responsive design and then flat design paradigms.
Technologies, platforms and design trends come and go, but each in turn influences what comes next. The most interesting development of recent times and one that has the biggest potential to once again shift how we approach design challenges is the rise of voice as a user interface.
From intimate conversations to commanding speeches, our voice allows us to communicate our thoughts and feelings in so many ways. A great place to start thinking about the complexities of voice is by recalling recent conversations. From conversations between strangers, group discussions or candid moments between friends through to conversations where we ask for something, inform someone, disagree or desperately try to avoid a subject altogether. The emotions we show, through both verbal and non-verbal communication with our own individual subtleties are what make us so unique.
I recently was lucky enough to hear Dr. Carolyn Mcgettigan speak about the science of speech. Mcgettigan presented a CAT scan of a colleague speaking.
It made me think about how we rarely stop to think about the effort involved in making the sounds used in speech. Mcgettigan explained how the tongue, lips, jaw and vocal cords all work together to form the intricate sounds we hear when we speak.
In order to create effective voice experiences we must first understand how the voice is created, how sentences are formed and how conversation naturally flows.
In this article Sabrina Barr talks about how the way someone speaks can say more than the words themselves:
And here Judith Hunphrey talks about how the use of one simple word can make you appear more negative than you may intend:
We must fully understand the unique properties of voice before diving head first into the practice of creating solutions.
To help us understand how users react with traditional graphical interfaces we carry out experiments, prototype and measure feedback. We gather qualitative and quantitative data to test our design hypotheses and refine experiences. With Voice UX, this is the same, with the key difference being in how we measure success and the metrics by which we do so.
In this video Mark Paulina of Google speaks about how he and his team ideate and prototype new voice interfaces. He discusses people’s emotional reactions to voice interfaces and how they differ from the reactions experienced with screen based interfaces. He considers alternative measures of success for voice UI. Heuristics such as trust become more important, as does the relationship with the consumer and how comfortable the voice makes people feel.
Mark’s talk questioned people’s perceptions of how “human” a robot with a voice can be perceived and whether as UX designers we should be considering this as an important metric for success.
We have gathered some advice that helps us through the process of designing voice interfaces:
Have an idea you want to discuss? Call us for a free consultation