Best Practices for Echo Button Skills
In addition to following the certification requirements, you can enhance the usability of your Echo Button skill by keeping in mind the best practices described in this topic.
- Skill Launch
- Roll Call
- Visual Cues
- Hardware Considerations
Keep the Invocation Name Short
Keep your skill's invocation name to 2-4 syllables so that users can remember and say it easily.
"Alexa, open Quick Trivia."
"Alexa, open Quick Trivia Challenge."
Test Your Sample Utterances
Test your sample utterances to make sure that Alexa's automatic speech recognition interprets them correctly. One way to do this is to go to the Alexa app, select Settings, and then, under Alexa Account, select History. This enables you to see how Alexa converts your utterances to words.
Remember Returning Users
Treat returning users differently than new users. Give returning users a shorter version of the instructions, allow them to pick up where they left off, and so on. To do so, you must save the user's skill state across sessions.
"Welcome back to Quick Trivia!"
"Welcome to Quick Trivia! This is a game that will test your knowledge…"
State the Time Commitment
In a game skill, consider stating the average length of a game (or questions or rounds) so that first-time users are aware of the time commitment.
"Welcome to Quick Trivia. In this trivia game, you answer six questions. Ready to get started?"
"Welcome to Quick Trivia. Ready to get started?"
Indicate Whether Echo Buttons are Required or Optional
Let users know whether Echo Buttons are required or optional to use your skill. For example:
- Echo Buttons Optional: "If you choose to use Echo Buttons for this skill, make sure they are connected, and then tap each one to light it up."
- Echo Buttons Required: "Make sure your Echo Buttons are connected, and then tap each one to light it up."
Keep Instructions Short
Be mindful of the length of the instructions, and give users who have already listened to the instructions the ability to skip them altogether.
Acknowledge the Buttons
When a user presses a button during roll call, have your skill provide verbal confirmation, a sound effect, and/or change the color of the light on the button, so that the user knows that the skill registered the button.
Don't Repeat Roll Call by Default
If users finish a game and would like to play again, do not unnecessarily take them through roll call again unless it is part of the play experience.
Include Variations of Correct Answers
In trivia games, users can come up with some very creative variations of an answer. Be sure to include several acceptable variations of an answer so that correct answers aren't counted as incorrect.
For "What do you call a tree that has foliage year round?", accept "evergreen", "evergreen tree", "an evergreen", and "an evergreen tree".
For "What do you call a tree that has foliage year round?", only accept "evergreen".
Avoid Long Periods of Silence
Avoid long periods of silence by playing music or sound effects. This keeps the user aware that the skill is still in session. If possible, limit expected periods of silence to less than 5 seconds.
Keep the Skill Active
It is the skill's responsibility to ensure that the user understands that they are still interacting with the skill. If no visual or audio cues convey to users that the skill is still active, users might get confused and the skill session might end due to lack of activity. The following best practices help keep your skill active:
- Avoid designing skill interactions that consist of long periods of silence.
- Consider animating the lights on the buttons when you expect input from the user.
- Consider telling the user that they have to press a button, and how much time they have to press the button.
Periodically let users know how much of the game they have left. For example, in a trivia game, Alexa could say, "Now, for the third of six questions…".
Keep Gameplay a Reasonable Length
If your skill requires a lot of button presses, don't make gameplay too long. To determine a good game length, you could have a friend beta test your skill. You could also provide creative ways for a user to define the amount of time the round should last. For example, a racing game could ask, "Would you like to run a sprint or a long distance race?"
Give the user a fixed set of options instead of asking open-ended questions.
"How many rounds would you like to play: one, three, or five?"
"How many rounds would you like to play?"
Use Skill Cards
As with any skill, you can create a skill card that is displayed while a skill is in use, or at the conclusion of the use of a skill. Take this into consideration when designing and building a game. You may want to use a card to display a question in addition to having Alexa speak, or display a score at the conclusion of a game.
Remember Devices with Screens
Users who have an Echo with a display expect skills to use it. Print the trivia question, display the score, and so on. Make sure that this output persists while the skill is in session.
Limit Animation Speed
When creating animations, be mindful of accessibility considerations. For example, avoid blinking lights too quickly. Light animations should not exceed a pulse speed of 500 ms.
Avoid Reserved Animations
To avoid user confusion, try not to repurpose or mimic the following predefined system animations for your own purposes.
|Description||What it Indicates||Animation|
|Light is solid blue for three seconds and then fades out||The Echo Button has successfully paired to an Echo device|
|Light breathes orange until pairing is complete or until pairing times out||A user has put the Echo Button into pairing mode|
|Light starts blue and then fades out||The Echo Button was pressed|
Experiment with Colors
Due to the limitations of the hardware, some colors do not look as expected when rendered on Echo Buttons. You may need to experiment to find colors that work well with your skill.
Limit Battery Usage
Echo Buttons are powered by two AAA batteries. While a lot is done behind the scenes to ensure an ideal battery life, it is important for you to share the responsibility to maintain this high bar. Keep in mind the length of time that light is on, how much the Bluetooth radio is used, and how much button interaction is required.