Introducing "Zero to Hero: A comprehensive course to building an Alexa Skill"

German Viscuso Feb 05, 2020
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Editor’s Note: We have changed the name of the Alexa skill in our beginner tutorial from Cake Walk to Cake Time given the term’s racially insensitive history.


We're happy to announce our new Alexa skill building course "Zero to Hero: A comprehensive course to building an Alexa Skill" available in five languages: English (with subtitles), German, FrenchItalian and Portuguese (subtitles). This free course offers a full walkthrough on how to build a high-quality Alexa skill from start to finish offering a comfortable learning curve. New skill builders will learn how to build their first skill in just a few minutes thanks to Alexa-Hosted skills. Experienced developers will learn how to add advanced features like persistence, reminders and visual components (via the Alexa Presentation Language) to deliver a more personalized and conversational voice experience. When you complete the course, you'll have the foundational knowledge of skill programming, reusable source code and development tools to help you build high-quality Alexa skills your customers will enjoy.

Learn How to Design and Implement an Alexa Skill

In this course you will get hands-on experience using the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK), learn to create an engaging voice user interface (VUI), and build a custom Alexa skill from scratch. After completing this course, you will be ready to create Alexa skills that customers will love.

Zero-to-Hero is a sample skill that captures your birthday to then provides a set of functionality around it, such as counting the days until your birthday, setting a reminder for it, telling you which celebrities share your birthday and more.
Throughout the course, you’ll learn how to build your own version of Zero-to-Hero touching on most key features of the ASK API (via our Node.js Alexa SDK). The sample source code has been modularized so you can reuse a lot of it in your own skills!

The course is for anyone with beginner-level coding experience such as software developers, voice developers, solution architects, user interface (UI) developers, and voice designers that want to take their Alexa skills to the next level (pun intended!).

Course Modules

The course offers an introduction to Alexa skill development plus ten skill-programming modules. Below you will find the links to ENG/DE/ITA/FR. The videos are also available with Portuguese subtitles. In other to watch them in Portuguese, click on the ENG video and select “Portuguese” on the YouTube settings.

  • [Part 1: Alexa Skills Kit Overview] ENG / DE / ITA / FR - covers the very basics of Alexa Skill building. From fundamentals and terminology to a functional hello world skill you'll get everything you need to get started in your skill building journey! (source code).
  • [Part 2: Skill Internationalization (i18n), Interceptors & Error Handling] ENG / DE / ITA / FR - focuses on internationalization (i18n). It departs from a simple hello world skill in English and adds support for more than one language while keeping a single code base (source code).
  • [Part 3: Slots, Slot Validation & Automatic Dialog Delegation] ENG / DE / ITA / FR - introduces slots to capture variable data spoken by the user and shows how to create validation rules for them. It also shows how to offload the slot value capture mechanics to Alexa by using automatic dialog delegation (source code).
  • [Part 4: Persistence] ENG / DE / ITA / FR - shows how to keep user information across sessions. You'll learn about short term and long term persistence which will allow your skill to remember things so when the users interact with it again we can offer a customized experience (source code).
  • [Part 5: Accessing ASK APIs] ENG / DE / ITA / FR - gives you an intro about accessing Alexa Skill Kit's APIs. These are specific public APIs available to developers to access user and device information to tailor the skill experience to them. These APIs require user consent when user information is involved and help reduce friction (as account linking is not required). We'll also be looking at SSML (Speech Synthesis Markup Language) which allows us to spice up Alexa's responses (source code).
  • [Part 6: Reminders API] ENG / DE / ITA / FR - covers the Reminders API. This API allows you to set reminders in your skill so Alexa will say a message out loud at the time that you decide based on user input. In this case we'll create a reminder for the user's birthday (source code).
  • [Part 7: Accessing External APIs] ENG / DE / ITA / FR - explains a functionality that is used very frequently by Alexa skill developers: accessing external APIs. Alexa skills are not closed environments hence you can connect to external services from the skill back-end. We'll show how to do this from a node.js based lambda using the Axios library (source code).
  • [Part 8: Alexa Presentation Language (APL), (I)] ENG / DE / ITA / FR - As Alexa skill developers we need to learn how to use APL, the Alexa Presentation Language, to enrich skills with visuals which will help increase engagement. In this first video related to APL we'll take a look at the foundations of an APL document and use it in various intents and in the next video we'll go a bit deeper (source code).
  • [Part 9: Alexa Presentation Language (APL), (II)] ENG / DE / ITA / FR - In this second video dedicated to APL (Alexa Presentation Language) we'll make use of data obtained from an external API and create a way to visualize that data as well as to provide touch capabilities on multimodal devices (source code).
  • [Part 10: The ASK Command Line Interface (CLI)] ENG / DE / ITA / FR - shows you how to move away from the web browser and go towards the command line. If you're an advanced developer used to the command line you can leverage our ASK CLI (Command Line Interface) which allows you to access tons of APIs so you can effectively automate virtually any task that has todo with building Alexa skills. Overall we'll show you how to configure and use the ASK CLI to do the most basic, but key operations (source code).
  • [Part 11: Publishing] ENG / DE / ITA / FR - shows you the final step before your Alexa skill is available to everyone in the world and that is: publishing. We've been through coding and testing so now we'll show you all the steps required to publish your Alexa skill.

If you’re new to skill building, we recommend starting from the introduction (Part 1). If you already know the basics and want to add memory to your skill, you can skip ahead and choose one of the more specific modules above (note however that each module builds on top of the previous one so it's better to follow the suggested progression). Each module consists of a video and matching source code. Don't hesitate to use the comments section in each video for questions and submit issues and PRs in the source code site. We value your feedback!

What You'll Learn

By completing the course, you’ll understand the components of skill programming, and tooling to help you build engaging skills. You’ll learn how to use the Alexa Developer Console to create and test your skill. You’ll also learn how to use Alexa-hosted skills to host your skill’s back end. The course introduces teaches you how to program your back end using the Alexa Skills Kit Software Development Kit for Node.js.
You’ll also learn how to leverage important Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) features like:

More Training Opportunities to Enhance Your Alexa Skills

Once you’ve completed this course, we recommend you continue your learning by checking out these additional training materials:

Get Started

The video course is free and available for anyone ready to build Alexa skills. And please tell us what you think! Reach out to us on Twitter at @germanviscuso, @muttonia and @bnachawati to share your comments and feedback.

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