It’s easy to get carried away when developing a concept for your first voice-app.
This is an exciting time for ‘Voice First’ technology and its only right that we let our minds fantasise about the far-reaching possibilities when it comes to the power of voice. But right now; less is definitely more.
For any brand who wishes to reach their customers on a Smart-Speaker platform is can be tempting to think of all the different ways in which it is possible to engage with their audience. Product ordering, content marketing, testimonials, the list goes on but often too MUCH content can make for confusing and frustrating user experiences. Whilst Voice-Apps (Skills, Actions… depending on your platform) can be very good when it comes to handling a variety of requests and commands, at the same time, a smorgasbord of functions can be difficult to navigate for the consumer.
Think of your average football club website. It contains countless pages of club news, player interview, scorelines, products etc… which is great. Its everything a fan of that club could possibly need and want, but if you tried to convert that to a Voice-App it would be a confusing mass of information. The difference between web-design and voice-design is very simple (and probably obvious): visual information. When navigating a traditional webpage you are guided through every step with drop-down menus and click buttons. The various options and journeys are laid bare for you to select as you wish. With voice, no such menus exist.
Sure, its possible to guide a user through a Voice-App with spoken option (as with an automated telephone answering service) but even this can be a frustrating experience. Especially if the user wants to jump straight into a function rather than navigate a lengthy menu. Plus, how many times have you used such a service and by the time you have heard the 4th or 5th option you’ve forgotten the first?
We’ve all heard of the “Rule of Three”: One of the most powerful concepts in communication and writing. Its used by countless orators in some of the most powerful and memorable speeches in history. Its success boils down to one simple fact: the human brain is really good at remembering 3 pieces of information. Any more and it has to work overtime. So, why make your user work extra hard just to fund your content? However, with Voice Apps, we’ve found that rather than a target, 3 is the MAXIMUM if you want to create a clean user journey.
There are exceptions to this rule, however. When the BBC launched its Amazon Alexa Voice Service they made endless options available. Hundreds of podcasts, radio programmes and bespoke content were made available on their new Smart Speaker platform. The Beeb got around this issue by (rightly) assuming their audience already knew what content they wanted to listen too and understood what each channel was offering. Instead of long-winded introductory menus, users are simply greeted with the message: “What would you like to listen too?”. Clean. Simple. Effective. It’s an advantage that comes of being a world-known organisation with instantly recognisable and definable content brands… you may not be that fortunate.
HIVE Content recently worked with a client who wanted multiple functionality from their Voice-App. Once we began testing the Skill (built on the Alexa platform) we discovered that best user experience came when everything bar the Skills core functions was stripped away. When a user wanted to access a specific function offering other option simply “got in the way” of the journey. So, we identified the key function that users wanted and focused on delivering that element in an effective, frictionless way.
Its a tactic echoed my Amazon Alexa Developer Jeff Blankenburg who says:
“You don’t need to be everything to everyone with your skill. You should try to serve a specific purpose, and serve that purpose better than anyone else.”
In other words: just because your new app CAN do something doesn’t mean it should.
Decide what problem you wish to solve for your customers/audience and focus on doing that. Once your skill is established and your users understand its offerings (and become more familiar with voice technology in general) there is nothing to stop you adding more functions and features but for now, keep it simple.
Less is definitely more.