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July 05, 2017Aaron Tang
Last year, we introduced the Flash Briefing Skill API to enable you to add content feeds to flash briefing on Alexa in the form of pre-recorded audio and text-to-speech (TTS). Since then, we have seen a steady increase in the number of flash briefing skill submissions. To help you build and publish these skills, we’d like to share key certification requirements and common issues we’re seeing within the Alexa skills certification team, and provide helpful reference material.
Please reference the Flash Briefing Skill Certification Checklist to help ensure a quick and seamless certification process.
Here are the most common Flash Briefing Skill API certification issues we’ve seen to date:
1. Inconsistent Audio Volume: Customer receive a poor experience when audio feeds play at louder or softer volumes than the device (i.e., Alexa’s voice). In certification, we’re seeing audio volumes that are different than the volume of Alexa’s voice. To avoid this common issue, please test your skill using a loudness meter tool and adjust the volume of your audio content as needed.
For guidance on loudness and some suggested tools, see our documentation on Normalizing the Loudness of Audio Content and our Tips on Setting Your Alexa Skill’s Audio Volume Level.
2. Stale Date Field: Each item in your feed has a date field. This date indicates the freshness of your feed item. Any item with a date field older than seven days will not be played or read. In certification, we often see date fields that are static and older than seven days – resulting in no content being played during the flash briefing. Keep your date field accurate and up-to-date by dynamically updating it in the correct date format.
For guidance on how to update the date field in your feed, see the Flash Briefing Skill API Feed Reference.
3. Unintended Text To Speech (TTS) Content: Alexa either plays or reads a feed’s content to a customer. Today, the accepted formats for a feed are RSS/XML and JSON. In order to provide an acceptable experience for customers, please test to confirm that your text-to-speech content does not contain (and read) any special characters such as HTML, XML, SSML tags or nonstandard punctuation. This is another common issue seen with skills in certification.
You can find these requirements in the Flash Briefing Skill Certification Checklist (under Format Guidelines).
We hope this helps you through the Alexa skill certification process. After your skill passes certification, it is published to the Alexa catalog where it can reach millions of customers.
Voice User Interface (VUI) design is an exciting field. And developers like you have already created more than 15,000 skills with the Alexa Skills Kit, a collection of self-service APIs, documentation, tools, and code samples that make it fast and easy for anyone to add skills to Alexa. As we learn more about this burgeoning space and explore the realm of possibilities, we will update our processes and requirements. I'll share news and updates as they happen, aiming to be responsive, consistent, and transparent along the way. We’d love your feedback, so please send us your thoughts on Alexa skills certification anytime using our contact form.
If you’re serious about getting into building voice UIs, we’d like to help you explore. If you publish a skill in July, we’ll send you an Echo Dot so you can experiment and daydream. Developers in the US can also get a pair of limited-edition Alexa dev socks. Skills built using our fact template are not eligible.