Computers are incredible. A computer can tell you what the weather is like on the other side of the world almost instantaneously. All you have to do is type exactly the right term into the little search box. That said, computers simply can't match us when it comes to conversation. In reality, there are all kinds of ways I might ask a friend what the weather is like and still get a meaningful response. In conversation, I'm relatively unconstrained by things like order, syntax, and jargon.
So how can we marry the value of near-instant information with the natural, nuanced, and convenient experience of talking with a trusted friend when we're creating voice experiences for Alexa? Design is the answer.
We believe that anyone can create compelling Alexa skills that blur the boundaries between human and computer interaction. We're so excited for the possibility of voice, that we've launched a new and free self-paced course called Designing for Conversation to help you start building natural Alexa skills.
Learn About Conversational Design with “The Foodie”
Throughout the course, we'll walk you through a sample skill called “The Foodie” to bring concepts of conversational design to life through practical application. We designed this course to help anyone who wants to create compelling Alexa skills to design better, more natural voice interactions.
Here's the best part: You don't need to understand code to get started. But don't misunderstand - there's plenty of sample code that we review throughout. In fact, we've provided the entire source code for “The Foodie” with the course. There's plenty for experienced developers to sink their teeth into.
However, as the name implies, the course is heavily focused on design. If you can write a script, you'll learn enough in this course to work on your vision competently with a developer.
Throughout the course we dive into the design methods we recommend to develop engaging and conversational voice user interfaces (VUI). We'll show you how to work through the process we used to design “The Foodie” skill so you're prepared to apply principles of conversational design to your own skills.
What You Will Learn
The course is divided into two sections. In the first section, which is all about designing for voice, we'll walk you through our design process from start to finish — imagining and analyzing user interactions through a series of exercises aimed at exposing the nuances of human conversation. In the second section on building, we'll take a quick look at the features and code patterns you can use to address each challenge.
Specifically, you'll learn:
- How to determine if your skill idea has the potential to be conversational
- Why scripts (not flowcharts) are, hands down, the most effective way to design for conversation
- A way to expose and think about edge cases where users might say something unexpected
- How dialog management can solve for multi-turn conversation
- How memory and persistence will make your skill more personal
- How to handle curious and distracted users with context switching
- How to avoid annoying the user for information that you can figure out on your own using conditional slot collection
Get Started with Designing for Conversation
The self-paced course is free and available for anyone ready to get started with voice design. Click here to get started. And please tell us what you think! Reach out to me on Twitter at @JedEspo to share your comments and feedback.