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June 18, 2018Jeff Blankenburg
Editor's Note: This is an installment of our series called Things Every Alexa Skill Should Do, which highlights the important features and lessons that every skill builder can use to make their skills more engaging for customers. Follow the series to learn, get inspired, and build engaging Alexa skills.
For most interactions with Alexa, customers don’t want a skill to drone on and on with options or descriptions in a single response. There are obvious exceptions to this rule, like with storytelling skills and adventure games. In general, a good rule of thumb for all of your responses is to give it the “one breath test.”
If you can say the response out loud without taking a breath, the response is probably the right length. If you need to take a breath, think about how you could shorten your response, or break it into segments as the user progresses through the flow of your skill.
If you’re not sure if your response is too long, use the previous paragraph as a reference. For me, it required a breath after the second sentence. I probably could have gone further, but if I had been having that conversation with a real person, I would have looked very uncomfortable speaking the third and fourth sentences, followed by a deep breath and some wheezing.
One way you can ensure your skill passes the one-breath test is to use brevity, arrangement, and pacing when listing options. For example, lists are longer and more complex than a simple response. If you need to give between two and five options, treat each item like a simple response, and clearly set expectations for what’s about to come.
Have Alexa say something to introduce the list, for example “Here are the popular quick meals,” and have it pause briefly between items in the list. Verify that you can comfortably read each item aloud at a conversational pace with one breath. Check out the Amazon Alexa Voice Design Guide to learn more ways you can use brevity, arrangement, and pacing when having your skill list options.
With more than 40,000 skills in the Alexa Skills Store, we’ve learned a lot about what makes a skill great and what you can do to create incredible voice experiences for your customers. Download the complete guide about 10 Things Every Alexa Skill Should Do for more tips, code samples, and best practices to build engaging skills.
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