As voice continues to evolve, developers and skill builders are keeping up with the latest voice design concepts that are changing the way users interact with technology. As an Alexa evangelist, I often rely on books and podcasts to help me stay on top of voice design trends and what other voice design experts are up to.
Here are a few books, articles, and podcasts I’ve been into lately to stay up-to-speed on voice user interface (VUI) design, conversational AI, and the latest skill-building techniques.
1. Designing Voice User Interfaces: Principles of Conversational Experiences
“VUIs are becoming all the rage today. But how do you build one that people can actually converse with? Whether you’re designing a mobile app, a toy, or a device such as a home assistant, this practical book guides you through basic VUI design principles, helps you choose the right speech recognition engine, and shows you how to measure your VUI’s performance and improve upon it.”
This book provides a great overview of VUI, how to construct a conversational design, how to use voice in conjunction with multimodal devices, and best practices for building engaging skill experiences. It also goes into how to maintain your voice-first experience by giving real examples using Alexa and other voice technologies via home assistants, smartwatches, and even car systems.
2. Voice User Interface Design
“This book is a comprehensive and authoritative guide to VUI design. The VUI is perhaps the most critical factor in the success of any automated speech recognition (ASR) system, determining whether the user experience will be satisfying or frustrating, or even whether the customer will remain one.”
This book focuses on automatic speech recognition, a core component of the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK). It captures the psycholinguistic side of language technology, or how users will comprehend and respond to different voice experiences. It goes over the complete lifecycle, from conception to deployment, of a voice experience, including testing and maintaining voice technology. Even though it was published in 2004, this is a great resource for anyone wanting to understand the core principles of voice design and voice technology. This book is great for those who hope to design more conversational skills, versus call-and-response skills.
3. Designing Bots: Creating Conversational Experiences
“The new conversational apps are revolutionizing the way we interact with software. This practical guide shows you how to design and build great conversational experiences and delightful bots that help people be more productive, whether it’s for a new consumer service or an enterprise efficiency product.”
This book is the newest on our list, and was written by Amir Shevat, the VP of Developer Experience at Twitch. It provides the most up-to-date information on current voice technologies, while sharing standardized best design practices. This book mostly focuses on chat bots relating to customer service, user feedback, and task fulfillment. That being said, the conversational design components are still critical in these scenarios. This book would be a great reference for skills that rely on slot elicitation or dialog management.
4. Alexa Dev Chat Podcast
From our own Chief Evangelist Dave Isbitski, this podcast features voice technology thought leaders discussing all things Alexa. The two most recent episodes focus on the future of voice. Brian Roemmele and Dave talk about conversational user interfaces and where they are headed. Then Alexa evangelist Paul Cutsinger and Dave discuss the rise of Alexa and the different device form factors that help emphasize conversational experiences. Tune in if you want to hear about new features, developer stories, and more.
5. Alexa Twitch Channel
The Alexa evangelist team streams on Twitch every week! We conduct Office Hours, stream demos, live code, and more. Our past few episodes have been talking about the recently updated Java SDK for the Alexa Skills Kit. My most recent livestream was an advanced deep dive into the SDK, starting with a blank page and eventually creating a quiz skill. Check our weekly schedule listed on the channel to see what we have planned, and feel free to chime in on the chat if you have suggestions or questions.
6. Alexa Skills Review by GCNES
This podcast dives into different skills, what makes them fun, and why they are worth enabling on your Echo device. They most recently reviewed Westwood One Sports, ESPN, Zombie Hunter, and Echo Show. Listening to the different episodes, the reviews are honest and compel you to want to try out the skills for yourself. Along with that, if you have any skills you’d like the author to review, he encourages you to email him directly!
7. Dabble Lab
Steve from Dabble Lab has created this channel to teach viewers how to develop voice bots and assistants. His short tutorials do a great job diving into Alexa and AWS together, like with How to Build an Alexa Audio Streaming Skill or How to Build an Alexa Skill that Calls an External API.
If you're ready to start building for voice after checking out these resources, here are some additional tools to help you get started with the Alexa Skills Kit:
If you have more suggestions for books, podcasts, or videos related to voice design, send them my way!
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