With the increased popularity of Alexa-compatible smart home devices, we’ve seen a surge in the number of smart home skill submissions. Developers around the world are building skills that enable customers to control their lights, thermostats, and even their entire homes by voice.
Most of these skills are created using the Smart Home Skill API, but many are also created using the custom interaction model. The certification process varies slightly based on the implementation method.
Our previous blog post highlighted the requirements for skills implemented through the custom interaction nodel. In this post, we’ll highlight key requirements, common issues we’re seeing, and helpful reference material for skills implemented using the Smart Home Skill API.
Smart Home Skill API certification requirements are available in our Smart Home Skill Publishing Guide. We encourage you to reference this material throughout skill-building for a quick and seamless certification cycle.
Avoiding Common Pitfalls
Here are the most common issues we see with Smart Home Skill API submissions (along with reference materials to help you avoid them):
1. Inconsistent User Experiences Across All Target Languages
We often find that skills targeting multiple languages are not providing the same user experience. If your skill comes in multiple languages, test to make sure your skill works well in each of your target languages. Also make sure that publishing information such as short description, full description, example phrases, and any supporting links and FAQ are all available in the target languages.
For guidance on example phrases, see our Align Example Phrases with Consumer Guidance documentation. And for guidance on full description, see our Provide a Detailed Full Skill Description documentation.
2. Missing Test Account Credentials & Instructions
Naturally, smart home skills require account linking to control smart home devices. Test credentials used for account linking are sometimes not provided to our team for testing. Avoid this common mistake by providing test credentials (e.g., username and password) of the cloud-based device with which your skill will interact. Additionally, make sure at least one device is discoverable on the device cloud for testing. The account and the device(s) should be kept live until the skill is certified or you receive feedback.
3. Links That Aren't Accessible from Both Mobile and Desktop Browsers
4. Example Phrases Not Based on Consumer Guidance
In addition to great user experiences across all target languages, the example phrases for your skill should align with the Amazon-provided smart home consumer guidance. Be sure to check that example phrases referenced in the User Description section and provided in the example phrases section are in line with the Amazon-provided smart home guidance, which can be found on these pages:
Other Certification Best Practices
The above covers the most common issues we are seeing in Alexa skill certification. Here are some additional best practices to help minimize certification turnaround times:
1. Customer Guide
In order to provide customers with the best experience, consider including a detailed user guide as part of your supporting documentation. This will not only help your customer better understand your skill but also help them troubleshoot any issues that arise. The guide should preferably include an FAQs and a section on troubleshooting. The guide should be able to load on iOS, Android, and desktop browsers.
The certification team also references this material to understand the nature of your skill as needed for an accurate and timely review. The URL for this guide should be short and easy to remember (use a URL shortener if necessary), and should be present in the full skill description.
2. Detailed Full Skill Description
The full description for your skill should be free from grammatical and punctuation errors as it is thoroughly read and evaluated as part of certification. We recommend you use the template in our publishing guide. This should help onboard users quickly and allow our team to understand your skill and its features.
We hope this helps you through the Alexa skill certification process. After your skill passes certification, it is published to the Alexa catalog where it can reach millions of customers. And, passing certification also brings you one step closer to qualifying for the “Works with Amazon Alexa” badge.
We Value Your Feedback
Voice User Interface (VUI) design is an exciting field. And developers like you have already created more than 12,000 skills with the Alexa Skills Kit, a collection of self-service APIs, documentation, tools, and code samples that make it fast and easy for anyone to add skills to Alexa. As we learn more about this burgeoning space and explore the realm of possibilities, we will update our processes and requirements. I'll share news and updates as they happen, aiming to be responsive, consistent, and transparent along the way. We’d love your feedback, so please send us your thoughts on Alexa certification anytime using our contact form.
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