Hugo’s Move from Digital Nomad to Full Time Alexa Skills Developer
Emma Martensson Jul 11, 2019
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Hugo Catchpole didn’t plan to go into voice, but when he got an Amazon Echo Dot for a birthday present in 2017 he couldn’t help but start to tinker with a skill. “I immediately saw the potential,” Hugo says. At the time, he planned to be a digital nomad for six months, splitting his time between working remotely and exploring new countries. Soon he started receiving developer rewards for his skill and took the decision to change from the remote work he had planned, to building Alexa skills while on the road. After Hugo’s six months abroad, he had built up a skill portfolio and decided to continue developing Alexa skills full time at home in the UK.

Hugo’s portfolio is varied and consists of some of Alexa’s most popular UK skills, such as Animal Sounds, Christmas Countdown, Pet My Dog, Word Tennis, and more.

2019 Winner: Best Multimodal Experience UK Alexa Skills Store

In addition to building out his portfolio with more skills, Hugo is an early adopter of new features and continues to invest time in improving the quality of his skills. Alexa Presentation Language (APL) particularly caught his attention. “I was super happy about APL as I had a Fire TV Stick and Echo Show but had been limited to display templates,” Hugo says. As soon as APL was launched, he tried it out and signed up to the Amazon Alexa Skills Challenge: Multimodal. “When the competition was announced I got very excited.” He continues, “I created a story skill called ‘Story World’ that lets you give the characters in the story a name.” Besides making the story interactive, he also made sure his visuals were as engaging as possible by working with artists. Hugo proceeded to win first prize in the Amazon Alexa Skills Challenge for the best multimodal experience in the UK Alexa Skills Store.

KISS Principle, DADA Loop

When designing a skill, Hugo follows the KISS principle: Keep It Simple Stupid. The principle reminds him to not add unnecessary complexity to his skills. Looking at his skills’ user engagement, it seems to be working. 

After his skills have been published he uses the DADA loop: Data, Analysis, Decision, and Action. He looks at the stats (in Dashbot and the Amazon Developer Portal) and then he analyses what the information means. This involves finding what the demand gap is and what people are actually asking for. From there, he makes a decision if he should improve the skill based on his analysis. An example of this is when he found a big demand for dinosaur sounds within his Animal Sounds skill, and proceeded to develop his dinosaur sounds extension pack. “Now I monitor the stats from that pack and continue the loop,” he says. 

Moving into In-Skill Purchasing

Hugo is excited about in-skill purchasing (ISP) saying, “It’s a big compliment to the work put into the skills if someone is willing to part with money and pay for your premium offering.” Previously, Hugo determined success based on retention, but going forward he will also consider revenue as one of his key metrics. “With ISP you will really be able to tell if you have built something that people love,” he says. His advice for other developers is to not be too pushy with the upsell. If customers use the product, then developers can ask if they want to extend the experience, but if they say no, developers should respect it and stop asking them. This will help make a better user experience. He also thinks developers should use small reminders highlighting that the users can ask for the extended experience at any time and let them upgrade when they’re ready.

Next for Hugo is a new skill that is in the works, but he can’t spill the beans on it yet. He will also continue updating his existing skills with new features and improvements, following the DADA loop.

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