Decide What Kind of Skill to Build

When you design your voice interface, you need to think beyond the “happy path.” The “happy path” is the simplest, easiest path to success a customer could follow (or that you hope they follow). This is not always the case, so you need to be adaptable and come up with many variants to this path that fit different customer needs. Don’t feel pressured to capture every edge case at first, but you need to represent the majority of possible paths taken.

In situational design, voice designers use storyboards to plan the progress of conversations over time. This shows the most likely, logical paths a customer can take. In Build Your Design Artifact, you learn how to construct storyboards, but first you need the core elements of each turn, which you lean to construct as a scripted dialog between the customer and Alexa. In the following sections, you’ll learn guidelines on how to create effective voice interactions, as well as some rules specific to Alexa to keep in mind as you design your skill.

Decide what type of skill to build

There are a number of ways to bring your idea to life as an Alexa skill. Each skill type has a built-in set of capabilities that you can use, or you can create your own custom skill.

To create… Use this skill type
A skill made to your specifications that can handle just about any type of request. For example:
- Look up information from a web service.
- Integrate with a web service to order something (order a car from a ride-share company, order a pizza from a restaurant).
- Play interactive games.
- Do just about anything else you can think of!
Custom skill (custom interaction model) You define the requests the skill can handle (intents) and the words customers say to invoke those requests (utterances).
A skill that lets customers control cloud-enabled smart home devices, such as lights, door locks, cameras, thermostats, smart TVs and much more. For example: - Turn lights on and off
- Change the brightness of dimmable lights
- Change the color or color temperature of a tunable light
- Change the temperature on a thermostat
- Find out if the door is currently locked
- Watch a home camera feed
- Change the volume on a speaker
- Change the channel of a TV
Smart Home Skill API (pre-built model) The Smart Home Skill API defines the requests the skill can handle (device directives) and the words customers say to invoke those requests (utterances).
A skill that lets a customer control cloud-enabled video. For example: - Play a movie
- Find a TV show
- Change a channel
- Pause, rewind, or fast-forward video content
Video Skill API (pre-built model) The Video Skill API defines the requests the skill can handle (device directives) and the words customers say to invoke those requests (utterances).
A skill that provides original content from: - Podcasts
- Livestream
- RSS feeds
Flash Briefing Skill API (pre-built model) The Flash Briefing Skill API defines the words customers say to invoke the Flash Briefing or news request (utterances) and the format of the content so that Alexa can provide it to the customer.

You can build skills that provide customers with many different types of abilities. For example, a skill could:

  • Look up answers to specific questions ("Alexa, ask Tide Pooler for the high tide today in Seattle.")
  • Challenge the customer with puzzles or games ("Alexa, play Jeopardy.")
  • Control lights and other devices in the home ("Alexa, turn on the living room lights.")
  • Provide audio, video, or text content for a customer's Flash Briefing ("Alexa, give me my Flash Briefing")

For details about the different models, see About Voice Interaction Models. After you've decided on the type of skill you want to make, you can start designing the conversation.

Determine the value proposition of your skill

Before you start building your skill, you need to figure out what’s in it for the customer. As mentioned previously, you don’t just want to convert an app or website into a voice experience. This results in a poor customer experience because it doesn’t consider the way people actually talk to each other. Instead, think about both the problem you’re trying to solve, and how your skill can enrich the conversation with the customer. Does your skill provide customers with a service more efficiently than a website or app? Does it allow someone to immerse themselves in something on a deeper level because of the nature of the experience? By clarifying your value proposition and pairing it with the expectations of the customer, you are setting a foundation for a strong and engaging conversation.

Design with four critical goals in mind

As you design your skill, there are four core questions to the customer experience that you need to address:

  1. What’s the goal or purpose of your skill?
  2. How will customers invoke your skill?
  3. What can a customer do with your skill?
  4. What kinds of information do you need to collect from customers to personalize the experience?