5 Common Certification Pitfalls

Nahoko Hirabayashi Sep 13, 2021

Every skill published to the Alexa Skills Store goes through the Certification Process to ensure that Alexa customers are presented with a delightful and engaging experience.

All certified skills meet our requirements for policy, security, functionality, voice interface and user experience. These certification requirements help us maintain a high-quality bar for our skill catalog. It also ensures that all skills our shared customers engage with on Alexa-enabled devices are safe, and work well.

To help you navigate the certification process, below are the 5 most common certification pitfalls we've seen so far this year, as well as some tips and resources to help you avoid them.

1. Test Account Credentials

If test credentials for account linking are not provided during skill submission, this will result in the certification team being unable to successfully certify the skill. To add or update your current testing credentials, please follow these steps:

1) Go to Alexa Developer Console
2) Navigate to Distribution tab > Testing Instructions field
3) Provide test credentials (e.g., username and password). Be sure that any required devices are associated with the credentials provided and that those devices are live at the time of submission. 

2. Example Phrases for Smart Home Skill

If you’re building a smart home skill, its example phrases should align with the Amazon-provided Smart Home Example Utterances . Be sure to check that your skill’s example phrases referenced in the User Description section and those provided in the Example Phrases section are in line with this list. 

3. Intent Response

We have seen skills that return irrelevant responses that are not understandable to user requests. All skill intent responses should be relevant to user requests and be free of errors. Let's review a few example skill interactions below:

Incorrect Example
Customer: "Alexa, open story reader."
Alexa: "Welcome to the story reader skill. You are able to choose how the story progresses by choosing option A or option B at certain points of the story. Let's start." Skill reads out a story.
Alexa: "You now get to choose the next action the character makes. Do you choose option A or option B?"
Customer: "Option A."
Alexa: "You chose Option B."

Skill continues the story with Option B.

In your skill, the user selects Option A, but the skill responds as if user had selected Option B.

Correct Example
In the provided example, the story should have continued with Option A.

Be sure to test all of the sample utterances of each intent mentioned in your skill description and example phrases to ensure that the skill’s response is relevant and does not contain any errors.

4. Customer-Facing Information

The customer-facing information for your skill should complete the core functionality of your skill. Customer-facing information is any information the customer will be able to see, use, and reference in order to understand the functionality of skill. Customer-facing information should describe the core functionality of your skill, and should include launch phrases that can be used, examples of how and why your skill is used, and possible answers to common questions about your skills functionality.

Incorrect Example

A skill is submitted titled ‘Cat Facts’, and all of the customer-facing information (including example phrases, skill title, description, and invocation name) is related to cat facts. However, the skill’s actual questions and responses are all related to dog facts. Because the customer-facing information does not match the core functionality of the skill, the skill would not be considered approved based on the inconsistency of the customer-facing information.

Correct Example

A skill titled ‘Dog Facts’ that has a core functionality centered around dog facts, and has customer-facing information related to dog facts.

5. Session Management

A customer's session within a skill can be thought of as their entire interaction beginning with the launch of the skill, until the skill closes. That interaction can be comprised of one or more user utterances. When responding, Alexa will either keep the microphone on waiting for further user input (keeping the session open) or turn the microphone off (ending the skill session). When the session remains open, the blue light ring will also be on, indicating that Alexa is still listening.

Let's review a few example skill interactions below:

Incorrect Example: Session Remains Open Without Prompt To User

Customer: Alexa, ask Space Facts for a fact.
Alexa: Here's a fact. A year on Mercury is just 88 days long. <session remains open>

The example scenario above is unacceptable because Alexa is listening for user input, without having told the user in advance that she's waiting for a response.

Correct Example: Session Remains Open And User Is Prompted For Input

Customer: Alexa, ask Space Facts for a fact.
Alexa: Jupiter has the shortest day of all the planets. Would you like to hear another fact? <session remains open>

Incorrect Session Example: Session Closes Where User Was Prompted For Input

Customer: Alexa, ask Space Facts for a fact.
Alexa: The Sun is an almost perfect sphere. Would you like to hear another fact? <session closes>

The example scenario above is unacceptable. Although the session closes, Alexa prompted the user for additional input by asking a question.

Correct Session Example: Session Closes And User Is Not Prompted For Input

Customer: Alexa, ask Space Facts for a fact.
Alexa: The Sun is an almost perfect sphere. <session closes>

For more guidance on session management, refer to the Understanding Session Management post in the developer forums.

If the skill passes certification, it will become available to customers in the Alexa Skills Store. If the skill doesn’t align with the certification requirements, however, required changes will be listed in a feedback email sent to the email address associated with your developer account in order to help support the next submission. By checking these common certification pitfalls ahead of submitting for certification, you'll be well on your way toward having your skill certified.

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