As we become less dependent on the need to be physically attached to our devices, we have developed a greater requirement to have our wants/needs served through other means of communicating with them. At the same time, we exist in a world that constantly wants us to be “free” to do more by taking away the hassle and friction of simple tasks such as having to type in a request for something on a device.
One of the ways in which non-physical communication has been most prominently implemented is through the introduction of voice command interfaces. We are now able to issue tasks, have work done and do more through simple conversations with our phones, televisions and cars. This has opened up a whole world of possibilities and has allowed users to become increasingly empowered. For designers, however, this has presented a new set of challenges, the most important of which is how to create immersive, memorable and human experiences through voice.
If you reflect on the prior times that you have had a conversation with an automated personal assistant, it’s likely that there is very little that sticks out about your interaction, other than the fact that you knew you got the answer you wanted or that the task you wanted to have completed was actually completed. There tends to be little attachment to these interactions, and for this reason they remain forgettable.
In order for us to continue to value interactions with devices and make better use of them, it would be ideal to introduce additional “touchpoints” so that the journey begins to feel more memorable for us. Attaching a memory to an experience with a product is key in ensuring users continue to see a value in it and therefore continue to feel a desire to engage with the product. Once a user values a product in this way, they are more likely to be open to what else the product could do for them in the future.
The question now becomes how do we make voice experiences more memorable?
Every conversation is like a trip with a start point, a journey and an end. With audio interfaces designers can predictably map out all of these parts using conversation trees that are meant to lead us to the most appropriate and accurate end state. These guided conversations allow us to reach our outcome more efficiently and are therefore more popular. What these interactions miss, however, is that there are no human memories formed after they are completed. It would be useful if you could recall a conversation with Siri the same way you recall a conversation with your favourite barista. You still want Siri to prepare your coffee, but you want it in a way that becomes part of your memories of Siri.
Adding dynamics is one of the ways in which we can make voice interactions more memorable. These subtleties add rare, “wow” moments that are retained in the memory of the user. They can be introduced within the conversation tree in such a way that the same path is retained but also further enhanced. As an example, through machine learning, Google Assistant is able to remember frequently visited places and some of the experiences you’ve had there. Why not leverage this within Google Assistant so that it remembers a place that is frequently visited by you and makes a remark when you dictate directions to it?
“Ok Google, take me to Sam’s Club”
“Sure, you must love this place!”
Microinteractions are not that different from the mini “wow” moments common with more visual user interfaces such as the heart burst interaction on Twitter. They exist to wow us and draw our attention to the experience even more. We also remember these moments later, especially when they are still novel. Adding these little keys into our voice experiences will help draw in the user more and get them engaged in the product in a way that makes it all the more enjoyable.
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