Today, we’re discussing the findings of Martin Porcheron’s study, ‘Voice interfaces in everyday life’. We uncover insights into how people actually use Amazon Alexa in the home. We find unique user behaviour, new technology challenges and understand what it all means for voice UX designers, developers and brands.

Voice interfaces in everyday life

Imagine if you could eaves drop into someone’s house and listen to how they interact with their Amazon Echo. Imagine, whenever someone said “Alexa”, you were there. Imagine being able to hear everything thing that was said for an entire minute before the word “Alexa” was uttered, and then stick around for a whole 60 seconds after the interaction with Alexa was over.

Well, that’s exactly what today’s guest and his associates did, and his findings offer some unique lessons for VUX designers, developers and brands that’ll help you create more natural voice user experiences that work.

In this episode, we’re discussing:

  • How people use digital assistants in public
  • The background of Voice interfaces in everyday life
  • The challenge of what you call your Alexa skill
  • The issue of recall
  • How Amazon can improve skill usage
  • The inherent problem of discoverability in voice
  • How Echo use is finely integrated into other activities
  • The implications of treating an Echo as a single user device
  • The challenge of speech recognition in the ‘hurly burly’ of moderns life
  • How people collaboratively attempt to solve interaction problems
  • What is ‘political’ control and how does it apply to voice first devices?
  • Pranking people’s Alexa and the effect on future Amazon advertising
  • Designing for device control
  • Why these devices aren’t actually conversational
  • The importance of responses

Key takeaways for designers and developers

  • Give your skill a name that’s easy for recall
  • Make your responses succinct, fit within a busy and crowded environment
  • Make sure your responses are a resource for further action – how will the user do the next thing?
  • Consider designing for multiple users
  • Don’t use long intros and tutorials, get straight to the point
  • Don’t design for a conversation, design to get things done

Our Guest

Martin Porcheron is a Research Associate in the Mixed Reality Lab at the University of Nottingham and has a PhD in Ubiquitous Computing, a sub-set of Computer Science. Martin has conducted several studies in the field of human-computer interaction, including looking at how people make use of mobile phones in conversations i.e. how people use something like Siri mid-conversation and how those interactions unfold.

Martin’s angle isn’t to look at these things as critical or problematic, but to approach them as an opportunity to learn about how people make use of technology currently. He believe this enables us to make more informed design decisions.

The study we discuss today has won many plaudits including Best Paper Award at the CHI 2018 conference.

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