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Voice Prototyping for a Pleasant User Experience

03rd Jan 2019Posted by Admin

As voice technology is emerging and gaining prominence, more and more app development companies are taking interest and crafting voice apps. Speech is basic mode of communication and talking to interfaces with voice, is way different than interaction on screen or graphical interface.

Cathy Pearl, author of Designing Voice User Interfaces and head of conversation design outreach at Google, explains that setting an alarm through an app is quite a simple thing. What you need to do is open the app, select date and time and you set the alarm. But setting alarm through voice is complicated.

Just imagine setting an alarm at 7 a.m.

How could you say it:

Could you kindly set e alarm for the morning at 7?

Alarm at 7 a.m.

Call me at 7 o’clock

Cathy says that due to various experiences based voice prototyping is quite difficult, you have to gather responses from people before starting to code.

The need to read out sample dialogues loudly

As prototyping is a tough thing, one can initiate with lighter solutions to craft voice experiences. To have a good experience for a user,  you must initiate a user flow called sample dialogue

Give clear options

Cassidy suggests giving options for a various conversation that you put together and for every kind of response.

Suppose the user is deciding a restaurant for dining, after asking their preferred cuisine, you should try to map as below mentioned:

User comment

VUI response


"I'm unsure"

" I don't know"

"I don't care"


"I need something fast"   

“No issues! If you'd like, can I get for you?”

“I went there. How would be a Chinese place? There’s 4 in your locality.”

“Let’s go for an adventure! Here is a restaurant.”



“Either Chinese or Thai?”

“Anything too expensive.”   


“Here are some Indian restaurants in the area.”

“Nice choice. How much is your budget?”

“Awesome! Thinking to go to a different place?”



It is unclear what a user can say, but working out various conversations and trying to map it, and coming up with more options for exploring the idea is the best way to design an ideal voice.

Keep It Precise

Experts advise keeping your responses simple and short. Suppose you choose to give options to users, keep it minimum because it's difficult to remember over 3 things at once and voice interaction must be time-saving.

For beginners, it’s suggested to repeat that users ask for because this helps them to be understood and suppose there is some misunderstanding created by the device, then the conversation can be restarted.

If your design is targeted for experts, who are adapted to the interface, there is a scope of lowering of affordances

Move Faster And Say Things:

With an approach like the ‘Wizard of Oz’ where a ‘wizard’ (a person) responses to the words of users.

Ben Sauer, design and UI strategist says that imagining a conversation, write it and then test with a user. In a Wizard of Oz test, users think it's an interaction with an actual system, but a by a person, which is you.

There are several ways to help run your test. Ben and Abi Jones developed Say Wizard in Google which happens to be a tool to a text file, assign each text to a letter on the keyboard, and then get your device read it aloud.

This WoZ test is an amazing thing to do at the start of designing because it tells you where lies the problem in your dialogue and how people's response. This will help you handle errors and tell you where lies the flaw.  And that's the goal to maintain the flow of conversation.

How to handle the errors

Many users will wrongly pronounce some words, no matter, be English their primary language or not. Hence creating a design and carrying out testing with users is a crucial thing, mainly if chances of your target users are bilingual, have speech trouble, are elderly or kids.

To help users from getting puzzled, cases of error are essential tools. Experts suggest that being ready with responses is the only solution. Users must be reminded that they would get support or assistance if there is any problem in the flow of conversation.

The Significance of Voice Prototyping

Cathy Pearl of Google says that prototyping also reveals if a user knows that they could speak and when, which is essential as voice experiences are being available in various platforms like mobile phones, smart displays, and speakers.

Voice prototyping is the best way to understand how an experience could be Cathy where, writing sample dialogs is the first step, though a prototyping with actual voice output will make it a success.

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