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July 06, 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.
You’ve heard the saying “a picture is worth 1,000 words?” This is absolutely true when dealing with web and mobile design. There are consistent design elements on web and mobile apps because they are using design patterns that communicate large amounts of information with very little explanation.
However, unlike web and mobile apps, voice doesn’t have a visual language. When designing for voice, you have to fall back to the consistent design elements of a conversation between two humans.
Imagine walking into your office every morning, and consistently saying “good morning” to one of your colleagues. Aside from a generic “good morning” in response, you can’t predict exactly how that colleague would respond.
Now imagine your colleague, every morning, responds with “Hi. Good morning. It’s going to be a great day today.” After receiving the same response every day, you might eventually stop your interactions with them over time. It’s unnatural for someone say the same thing every time you talk to them. The same holds true when speaking to Alexa.
Hearing something unexpected in a response makes us pay closer attention. This means that every time a user interacts with your skill, you are determining exactly how engaged they are going to be.
Here are some common anti-patterns that we see in many skills:
It’s easy to add variety to your responses. It keeps the conversation going between Alexa and your users, and it adds the attention-grabbing variety that every conversation needs to thrive.
Build variety into your skill’s responses to keep customers engaged over time. For example, think of all the ways that you can say, “OK.” You might say, “Got it,” “Great,” “Sounds good,” and so on.
You can vary your responses by creating a list of phrases and using a random number generator to pick something from that list. This approach will add variety to your skill’s interactions and make your responses less robotic. To get started, check out these code samples in the Alexa Skill-Building Cookbook.
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.