Designing a Voice Assistant
May 15, 2022
7 MIN READ

4 Things You Should Know Before Designing a Voice Assistant

Crafting a voice assistant that best meets the needs, wants, and expectations of your users can result in forming deeper connections, improving engagement, and increasing ROI. Designing voice assistants that truly resonate with your users can be a complex process, and it’s vital to know the essentials before committing time and resources to development. Otherwise, you could end up with a voice assistant with major issues and customers that would rather type or swipe than try and fail. Then, it’s back to the drawing board. 

Now that we’re knee-deep in the voice-first era and many of the late majority are now even implementing voice AI strategies and roadmaps, it’s vital that your voice assistant is differentiated from the rest of the growing market and distinguishes your brand from that of big tech. Knowing the fundamental building blocks ahead of time and finding a partner with a voice AI platform that fits your brand and requirements will save a lot of time, money, and headaches. 

So how do you create a voice assistant that’s not only engaging, fast, and accurate but also matches your users’ needs? 

Here are 4 keys to designing a voice assistant that will deliver the kind of user experiences that grow your brand loyalty and generate real value: 

  1. What common pitfalls to avoid
  2. Voice assistant design ethics
  3. Which connectivity works best for your brand and users
  4. How to find your brand’s voice

Avoid common pitfalls when building a custom voice assistant

There are many elements to consider when building a custom voice assistant, and missing some steps could result in setbacks in time and money or not connecting with your target audience. What should you know before venturing into the voice-first era?

Consider avoiding these common mistakes when crafting a custom voice assistant:

  • Not investing in a branded experience 
  • Not knowing your target audience
  • Thinking voice is a single project
  • Not considering your voice AI options

For a branded experience, it’s essential to invest in a custom wake word to improve brand recognition and foster brand loyalty. A custom wake word that’s accurate, even in noisy environments, easy to pronounce, and avoids rhymes or associations will make a lasting first impression on your users. 

It’s essential to invest in a custom wake word to improve brand recognition and foster brand loyalty. 

It’s also important to know your target audience before starting development—what languages they speak, if they have accents, where they are located, and if there are any cultural differences that should be considered. All of these factors will influence what data your voice assistant should be trained on, as well as your voice assistant’s personality and tone. 

A voice assistant is not a one-and-done process, and your voice AI strategy should account for many iterations at every stage of development that is improved upon by user testing and research. Once your voice assistant is being used by consumers, data will show what elements need to be updated for the best user experience possible. 

When embarking on a voice AI roadmap, it’s also vital to consider whether to build your own voice assistant, partner with a third-party provider, or adopt an advanced voice AI platform solution. However, if you don’t build your own or adopt an independent platform, there will be long-term costs of not owning your voice assistant, including the inability to access data or control privacy. 

Know the ethics of voice assistant design

As voice assistants, like most new technologies, gain popularity and acceptance, there comes a point when certain aspects of the technology must answer to greater ethical concerns. This happened most widely with early practices of voice assistants resulting in privacy issues surrounding data collection. These questions evolved into a discussion around privacy as a core component of a positive user experience, allowing consumers to opt in or out and being transparent about how data is used. There are also several other ethics in voice assistant design to consider, including suggestive language, children’s interactions, and cultural biases. 

There are several ethics in voice assistant design to consider, including suggestive language, children’s interactions, and cultural biases.

The concern about suggestive language can be as basic as whether or not your users tell their voice assistant “please” or “thank you” to people using inappropriate, rude, or abusive language with voice assistants—specifically those that sound female. During design, brands will want to evaluate how their voice assistant responds to such comments.

Voice-enabled children’s toys can have many benefits for both children and parents, making it easier to access devices, providing endless entertainment, and promoting independence. However, brands designing for children need to be aware of enabling parental controls, specifically for devices that have access to the internet, and that they are following the list of regulations regarding the privacy of children under 13. 

Interested in learning more best practices for voice assistant design? Check out our VUI Guide.  

Choose the right connectivity for your voice assistant

Making the right connectivity solution for your voice assistant can result in a greater ROI, deeper connections with your users, and enhanced product functionality. Each connectivity option has its selection of benefits, and they each have their own unique fit for different audiences, products, and brand needs. 

Each connectivity option has its selection of benefits, and they each have their own unique fit for different audiences, products, and brand needs.

What are the connectivity options to be carefully considered? First, there is cloud-only connectivity, grown in popularity through smart speakers, and has access to the internet. Cloud-only works best for voice assistants that don’t require any embedded functions, such as mobile apps, websites, and voice-enabled TVs. 

The next option is edge connectivity with or without access to the cloud but can increase product functionality of voice assistants in children’s toys, manufacturing, healthcare, and more without the high cloud-based subscription-based fees and privacy concerns. 

Finally, there is Edge+Cloud, which combines the best of both worlds for both cloud-based and embedded connectivity. In-car voice assistants function especially well with Edge+Cloud, allowing users to roll up and down the windows while also streaming music hands-free. Hotels, QSRs, and smart home technology are also widely implementing this connectivity option in their in-room voice assistants, self-service kiosks, and at-home devices. 

Which connectivity option is best for your voice assistant? Here are some questions to ask: 

  • What device will be voice-enabled? 
  • How much processing power does it need? 
  • Does it need access to the internet? 
  • Does it need embedded functionality?
  • Are there cost limitations? 
  • Are there privacy concerns? 

For more information on edge voice assistants, check out our guide, “Voice Assistants on The Edge” or our webinar, How and Why Voice Assistants are Moving to the Edge.” 

Find your brand’s voice

voice assistant’s personality is just as important as how accurate and fast it is. Accuracy and speed may get the job done, but it is through the voice persona that users form deep bonds with the voice assistant. How they feel about the voice assistant will transfer over to how they feel about your brand. Therefore, it’s essential that your voice assistant is more than just precise and efficient—it should also endeavor to be likable and relatable to your customers. 

How do you make your voice assistant likable and relatable? Start with knowing your target audience. If it’s for healthcare, business, or education, humor could be more of a distraction and irritant than a joy. If it’s for users in certain cultures, casual language or greetings might not be appropriate. If it’s for a call center, users will likely grow frustrated at lengthy responses and will want to get responses quickly and factually. 

Once your users’ needs are determined, then you’ll want to infuse personality into your voice assistant by selecting the voice, tone, word choice, and level of humor that best matches their expectations. When in doubt, turn to user testing. Double-checking that your audience is responding to your voice assistant at every step of the process is essential. 

Once your users’ needs are determined, then you’ll want to infuse personality into your voice assistant by selecting the voice, tone, word choice, and level of humor that best matches their expectations.

By avoiding common pitfalls, knowing ethics, choosing the right connectivity, and finding your brand’s voice, you’ll be on your way to creating a voice assistant that resonates with your users, proves ROI, and differentiates from the fastly-growing competition.

Want to learn more about voice AI design? Dive into these blogs:

At SoundHound Inc., we have all the tools and expertise needed to create custom voice assistants and a consistent brand voice. Explore SoundHound’s independent voice AI platform at SoundHound.com and register for a free account here. Want to learn more? Talk to us about how we can help bring your voice strategy to life.

Kristen is a content writer with a passion for storytelling and marketing. When she’s not writing, she’s hiking, reading, and spending time with her nieces and nephew.

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