Voice User Interfaces

Your constantly-updated definition of Voice User Interfaces and collection of topical content and literature

What are Voice User Interfaces?

Voice user interfaces (VUIs) allow the user to interact with a system through voice or speech commands. Virtual assistants, such as Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa, are examples of VUIs. The primary advantage of a VUI is that it allows for a hands-free, eyes-free way in which users can interact with a product while focusing their attention elsewhere.

Applying the same design guidelines to VUIs as to graphical user interfaces is impossible. In a VUI, there are no visual affordances; so, when looking at a VUI, users have no clear indications of what the interface can do or what their options are. When designing VUI actions, it is thus important that the system clearly state possible interaction options, tell the user what functionality he/she is using, and limit the amount of information it gives out to an amount that users can remember.

Because individuals normally associate voice with interpersonal communication rather than with person-technology interaction, they are sometimes unsure of the complexity to which the VUI can understand. Hence, for a VUI to succeed, it not only requires an excellent ability to understand spoken language but also needs to train users to understand what type of voice commands they can use and what type of interactions they can perform. The intricate nature of a user’s conversing with a VUI means a designer needs to pay close attention to how easily a user might overstep with expectations. This is why designing the product in such a simple, almost featureless form is important—to keep the user mindful that a two-way “human” conversation is infeasible. Likewise, the user’s patience in building a communications “rapport” will help improve satisfaction when the VUI, becoming increasingly acquainted with the speaker’s voice (which the speaker will use more effectively), rewards him/her with more accurate responses.

Literature on Voice User Interfaces

Here’s the entire UX literature on Voice User Interfaces by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

All Literature

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