Daily Updates, Future Ear Radio

Future Ear Daily Update: 4-30-19

Designing for Voice

Image result for smart speaker and smart display
Image: Voicebot.ai

There have been a lot of really great content and discussions lately generated by the #VoiceFirst community around designing for voice. Up until recently, the emphasis in computer design has been largely based around visuals and digital branding. As we move into a more ambient setting when interacting with our computers, the emphasis begins to shift from our eyes to ears, and therefore, the designers’ role in helping to shape how we interact and communicate with our computers in this epoch is paramount.

The first piece that I recently read that really made me think hard about the challenge designers are tasked with was Mark Webster’s piece in Fast Company. Mark founded the design startup, Sayspring, which was acquired by Adobe last year. Mark’s now the leading voice user experience (VUX) at Adobe and in the article, he lays out his top four suggestions for anyone wading into the waters of voice design. I particularly liked this quote here:

For voice to achieve its potential and truly change how users interact with, and move throughout, the world, it needs designers. After all, voice assistants aren’t people. To be effective, a voice interface needs to be intentionally designed. And so it falls to the creative community to take the reins of a voice-first future. – Mark Webster

I appreciate this sentiment because as important as the technical work is to building this new generation of computing, it’s equally as important to have creative input help shape the field too. Then I started to see a lot of discussion around multi-modal:


With the surge in smart displays, the discussion around multi-modality appears to have taken center stage and it’s interesting to see how this topic of adding new modalities, like screens, impacts designer’s thinking, like Scot Westwater. Fellow VUX designer, Brielle Nickoloff, piggy-backed off this line of thinking from Scot with a thread of her own:

Brielle 4-30-19 1

Brielle 4-30-19 2

I’m not a designer, but to me, Brielle’s point about, “the decision being rooted in the use case,” makes a whole lot of sense. This interim, transitional period between the past computing paradigms and what lies ahead, seems to be trending toward being incredibly nuanced. During this period, it will be the designers’ job to balance new modalities with legacy modalities – audio and visuals – and determine on an experience-by-experience bases whether the experience is better suited to be primarily driven by an audio interface, with the screen playing a complementary role, or vice-versa.

There are two sides to building out this new paradigm, the technical and the creative, the yin and the yang. As Mark mentioned in his article, voice design skills will be as critical to design jobs as digital branding today. Fortunately, there are a lot of really smart designers taking the lessons they learned from designing on the web and mobile, and thinking about how those lessons apply to an audio-based modality and sharing with each other what’s successful and what’s not as they learn from trial and error. It’s exciting to see the role and the impact that the creative community will have on the burgeoning voice computing ecosystem by designing how we interact with our technology as computing becomes more ambient.

-Thanks for Reading-


To listen to the broadcast on your Alexa device, enable the skill here: https://www.amazon.com/Witlingo-Future-Ear-Radio/dp/B07PL9X5WK/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=future+ear+radio&qid=1552337687&s=digital-skills&sr=1-1-catcorr

To listen on your Google Assistant device, enable the skill here: https://assistant.google.com/services/a/uid/00000059c8644238

and then say, “Alexa/Ok Google, launch Future Ear Radio.”

Leave a Reply