As one of the most widely used voice assistants in the world, Amazon is constantly striving to improve and introduce new features to help developers build the next generation of voice experiences with Alexa. What people might not realize is that the Alexa team relies heavily on developer feedback to make many of the new features and programs possible.
More specifically, the Alexa Developer Advocacy Group provides a wide range of support and services to help developers enhance their skills and build innovative voice applications. The group’s efforts have resulted in the creation of a dynamic and thriving community, where developers can support their peers, while at the same time, provide feedback and feature requests to teams at Alexa.
According to Johannes Heine, manager of the Alexa Developer Advocacy Group, “I like to think of our mission as helping solve developer problems yesterday. We want to solve any potential problems that could arise in the future before they even occur and help developers always stay a step ahead.”
Helping Alexa developers build powerful applications
The Alexa Developer Advocacy Group was created in 2017 to help developers capitalize on Alexa’s rapid growth among customers – there are over 100 million devices out there with customers around the world. The group works to help developers overcome technical challenges and learn how to use the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK), a software development framework, to build voice applications for Alexa. As Alexa continued to gain popularity, the need for specialized support and resources for developers became apparent.
“When we first launched, Alexa’s capabilities were limited to simple fact or quiz skills, with no support for multimodal interaction,” says Heine.
“As Alexa evolved, and new features were added, it became difficult for any one person to stay on top of all the features, and provide developers with the help they needed to shape the next generation of customer experiences. We had to create specialized roles within our team, with experts in specific areas, to provide comprehensive assistance to developers across the full range of tools and features available.”
To give a few examples, the Alexa Developer Advocacy Group helps developers add account linking to their Alexa skill, which lets a voice application connect the user’s Amazon identity with their identity in a third-party application. The team can also answer questions regarding Alexa Presentation Language, a visual design framework that lets developers build interactive voice and visual experiences for Alexa-enabled devices.
At first, the Alexa Developer Advocacy Group answered developer queries as they came in. With the rising number of developer questions, however, the team needed a more efficient way to manage these queries. So, the group created common resources and solutions to manage these critical tasks. Today, a team of twenty people in the Developer Advocacy Group manage 500 developer queries per month.
“Much of this work involves identifying work-arounds or alternative solutions that the developer might not have initially considered but which nonetheless achieve a similar or identical outcome,” says Heine.
To identify the most common barriers to development, the Alexa Developer Advocacy Group operates the Uservoice tool here developers can post ideas. They can also upvote ideas posted by their peers. Issues with a higher number of votes are given greater priority by the group. When relevant, the Alexa Developer Advocacy Group then contacts the product team for each feature to resolve these potential roadblocks, and improve the developer experience.
“What we do is examine the top ideas and communicate them within Amazon to the appropriate product teams,” says Heine. “We aim to represent the voice of the developer and highlight the issues from their perspective, making sure that their voices are heard during prioritization or decision-making regarding features. This way, developers have a seat at the table, and their opinions are taken into consideration when it matters most.”
Harnessing the power of the Alexa developer community
With the support of the Alexa Developer Advocacy Group, developers are equipped with the tools and resources necessary to create ground-breaking technologies. The team is helping to build a future where all developers have the information that they need at their fingertips, making it simpler to develop powerful voice applications.
“Our ultimate goal is to achieve a developer experience where our team isn’t needed, and everything works seamlessly,” says Heine. “This mindset helps us strive toward providing the best possible developer experience.”
With the Alexa Developer Advocacy Group, voice developers at all levels of experience can access the support they need to build Alexa skills. If you want to receive personalized and confidential assistance, use the “Contact Us” feature on the Alexa developer console to connect with the team. You can also go to the Alexa Developer Forum or Slack channel to engage with other developers about your ideas and get peer-to-peer support.
By connecting with like-minded people, developers can enhance their Alexa skills and create engaging experiences. Join the Alexa developer community today to grow your knowledge, access support services, and contribute to the future of voice technologies.
“It always amazes me how willing developers are to help each other,” says Heine. “They might have encountered a pain point in the past and worked through it for many hours, but they still share their knowledge with others to spare them from going through the same experience. I am always inspired to see this level support within the community, and am motivated every day to help them in any way possible.”