Voice user interface (VUI) is becoming a pressing navigation need as more consumers and offices are employing technologies such as Google Assistant, Alexa and others. As VoiceBrew points out, several publishers like the Financial Times, the New York Times, and the Business Insider’s “Ten Tech Things” feature are already using Alexa’s “Daily Flash Briefing” voice layer for their Alexa service users. The more upwardly mobile the audience, the more likely they are already stumbling through your content via a voice assistant.
HubSpot research from Junto shows that 65% of content consumers aged 35–49 are using voice to search for information at least once a day. And according to Gartner, by 2021 approximately one fourth of all digital workers are expected to be using a virtual employee assistant daily. This has big implications for trade and professional-geared content, especially in areas where speed is of the essence.
Looking forward is one thing, but when it comes to voice navigation, the future is already here for many of us. So how should you step up to the challenge?
Here are five necessary steps to get started:
1: Become a VUI power user
Many publishers and executive teams are using AI assistants in their daily lives, but perhaps not as much at work where they interact with their employees or coworkers. This could be a big mistake. Without daily immersion into navigating content, it may be difficult to simulate such situations in a research test.
Initiating some form of controlled use in the workplace as a brand can be helpful in getting key stakeholders in marketing and PR into thinking through the sound of the voice of the brand, and more importantly, what the brand should not sound like if it is to stay viable in the 2020s.
2: Hold stakeholder meetings that cover VUI
VUI is part of both the editorial and marketing concerns of your content. Treat it as such. Once your stakeholders are using voice to some extent, take the discussion to the next level. Make your VUI part of regular meetings where you consider the following:
- Real-world examples of how competitors and other big adjacent players are using VUI to advantage.
- A list of pros and cons for each brand you analyze and compare them to your own emerging VUI goals.
- A list of the requirements you need to cover in the design of your VUI.
- How to sync your brand (and its voice) with the current VUI experience.
- Plans for tweaking any glitches, like embarrassing mispronunciations.
- Review and modify your VUI goals periodically as the learning curve deepens.
3: Optimize your website content for voice search
Nobody will associate your brand with voice content if they can’t find it on Alexa, Google, Cortana, Siri, et al. As KissMetrics founder Neil Patel advocates, you should focus on optimizing your website for voice search as a key step on your voice content journey.
4: Design an artificial brand persona
Forbes author Murray Newlands pointed out that an artificial personality can be a way to avoid just reading site in the standard personal assistant’s voice and diction. If you want the flexibility of Siri but the personality that better expresses your brand voice, try out the emerging voice agent solutions like LyreBird, which allows you to thoroughly customize your reader voice.
If you’re trying to also balance customer service chat with a VUI side, you might also consider Botframe. Be sure, however, to emphasize the design of your VUI, rather than putting all of the onus on the agent itself. The agent will read whatever you lay before it, so design an experience that translates well between textual and voice presentations of your brand.
Look at the examples posed by your competition when in doubt, or even before you get to the doubt stage. And then make it your own, unique persona.
For heightened specificity in sub-audience and/or cultural reach, perhaps you’ll want to go the extra mile can match the reader’s voice to the content and/or by category. High-value contributors may merit their own specialized human reader, as each author has a distinctive voice that needs to be honored within its own context.
What works for The Atlantic or the New York Times is not likely to work for a California surfing culture magazine or a Boston welding magazine. The culture of both industry and audience is more important than a studied universal approach in many, if not most, cases.
When dealing with multiple languages, cultural sensitivity needs to be built into translations of content from the original language into another language situated within a foreign cultural context. This will likely require a human reader, rather than relying on a virtual assistant to interpret the sounds according to a native vowel and consonant set. The native reader’s personality, cultural savvy and range is key to whether or not the content will connect with the listener. This applies to your VUI strategy in general.
5. Reach as many platforms as possible
What use is it to optimize for Google voice searches, but somehow miss out on Alexa, Siri and Cortana? Optimize your content to ensure it reaches as wide of an audience as possible, while also paying attention to the specific quirks of the major voice platforms.
Pushing for new platform adoption can be tough. Voice is built on top of previous web technologies, including textual formats like HTML, the Kindle EBook format and audio formats like Audible. The AI revolution, in turn, will continue to make use of VUI to extend the UX reach even further to new ways to consume, scan and condense content for research mode usage.
For all of the above reasons, you’ll want a “technology-agnostic” route when designing and optimizing your base voice layer for automated assistant-read content, but lean native and platform-specific the further you go.
The good news for those who fully optimize for the full OS universe and create a customized voice layer on top is that they will most likely gain market share much more easily, while also being ready for the next big thing. There is no challenge like starting something from scratch and aiming too high. Getting more customized as you go is easier and more productive, once you have the basics in place.