Design the Sample Utterances and Intents for Your Skill

Introduction

A skill’s sample utterances specify the words and phrases users can say to invoke the skill’s intents. Each intent is mapped to several sample utterances. Essentially, intents represent a particular function of a skill. A banking skill developer may want to include functionality to allow customers to check previous transactions, check their balance and check statement dates. The developer implements each function as an intent, and the sample utterances with an intent unlock its functionality by users saying them to their Alexa device.

The design guide has been split into two sections for this subject matter:

Sample utterances

Sample utterances are words or sets of words that customers are likely to say to try to access one of the intents that are included within the skill. They can consist of single words to whole sentences; they can be questions or requests.

The usability of a skill is highly dependent on its set of sample utterances per intent. The sample utterances should reflect requests that users are likely to say in the target language. That way, Alexa can help route the request to the correct intent, even when the request wording does not exactly match up to any of the sample utterances. Therefore, choose phrasings for your sample utterances that users are most likely to say for their requests to be routed to the desired intent.

If the sample utterances cover a variety of potential user requests, any other requests that are similar but are not covered word for word should still be directed to the correct intent. For example, the GetWeatherIntent includes a set of sample utterances as followed:

  • what is the weather
  • what's the weather
  • today's weather
  • what would today's weather be like
  • present weather condition

Let’s imagine the user says an unsupported request: “How is the weather today?” This utterance, even if it’s not among the sample utterances defined for the {GetWeatherIntent}, will most likely be directed to the {GetWeatherIntent}. The existing sample utterances cover similar phrasing and word counts, and include keywords like “weather” and “today”.

Distinction between custom and built-in intents

We mentioned earlier that an intent represents a function of the skill that allows user requests to be fulfilled and that each intent has a set of sample utterances attached to it. The Alexa Skills Kit provides a Built-In Intent Library. These are intents for common actions that you can choose to implement in your custom skill without providing any additional sample utterances. In other words, the built-in intents provide a large set of sample utterances already attached and ready to use, in contrast to custom intents whose sample utterances are custom made.