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Voice user interface design is the next generation of chatbots. It’s efficient, accurate, and recognizes advances in customer service technology. If you’ve ever secretly wished that you could communicate with your CPU more like Tony Stark talks to Jarvis, then you’re not alone. And a well-designed VUI can make that possible.

Conversely, a poorly designed VUI can cause mass confusion, lead to unnecessary user errors, and devolve your conversion funnel into chaos. Anyone who’s ever had to get through a cheerful robotic bank teller to find their balance knows the pain of bad VUI design.

The questions are poorly formatted, the options are disorganized, and every background noise is cause for a conversational reset. If you didn’t need the information on the other end of that call, you’d be justified in teaching the voice assistant some new (and not so nice) words.

With that being said, we believe that the world will soon be a better place with fewer voice interface design problems. More Jarvis, less disembodied tellers. This is why we’ve listed some of the most common VUI design mistakes (and how to avoid them) below.

woman in yellow shirt speaking to vui chatbot siri

Overcomplicating questions with dialogue

Many of us have that one friend that tries to fit an entire conversation into a single sentence. As soon as you try to ask a question, the dialogue starts back up again.

The same problem can occur when you try and put too much information into your VUI messages. The user is interacting with your voice interface for a reason. Analyze this reason, and design short and understandable messages to guide the conversation.

Allowing the goal of the conversation to drive the VUI design can direct users to the information they need faster. The less time they have to spend navigating the initial conversation, the more likely they are to be happier when it comes time to convert.

Avoid asking a question and then immediately following it with a block of information and another question. Users will end up hung up on the first question and miss everything else. Keep it simple and use the fewest words possible to get the point across.

Assuming that VUI design uses the same vernacular as text

It’s no secret that writing and speaking use a very different vernacular. Written words tend to be more formal and can prove awkward when spoken out loud as voice commands. When designing a voice interface experience, it’s important that the script isn’t based on stiffly written material.

However, you’ll still need to make sure that scripts written for VUIs are clear and easy to understand. Avoid slang, but don’t be afraid to use contractions and to forego formal language.

As a rule of thumb, always test your VUI designs before putting them into action. You can do this by reading the script out loud and recording it to see how it sounds to impartial ears. User experience offers valuable information!

Then, before the voice interface goes live, test the actual conversation bot on a third party. This allows you to see how productive the conversation will be with someone who doesn’t know what to expect or how to navigate the dialogue.

Digital audio waves on screen. Computer designed abstract technology rendering with DOF

Putting the cart before the horse (so to speak)

When users are looking at written options, they have the ability to read through all of their choices before making a decision. However, VUI scripts need to be written for auditory cues. This means that phrasing a question like:

“Please say ‘appointment’ to set an appointment. Please say ‘nurse’ to ask a question about prescriptions. Please say ‘prescriptions’ to request a refill…”

makes it easy for a user to forget what they were supposed to say in the first place. Instead, describe the option before asking them to say a word. This communicates the purpose in a more digestible way and makes it simpler for users to navigate the system.

confused man and woman using tablet devices

Using complicated prompts to clarify

Design your VUI to ask users direct questions with simple answers. Long meandering sentences that go nowhere are going, well, nowhere.

You risk losing the interest of customers if your dialogue doesn’t get to the point relatively fast. It’s okay to be pleasant and to try for a more organic conversation. However, it’s not okay to confuse users with a convoluted question that may or may not be rhetorical.

Terms like “maybe,” “would you consider doing…,” and “feel free to,” all suggest that the user may not need to answer anything. Always make the necessary action very clear and tell people what you really want them to do.

VUIs are there to make communication as easy and clear as possible. When designed correctly, they can take your site to the next level. When done badly, you end up with a veritable magic 8 ball that leaves people frustrated.

surprised woman holding phone

Assuming that VUI design is a one-time thing

One of the biggest mistakes that anyone can make with both chatbots and VUIs is to assume that they only need to be completed once. Methods of communication are changing all the time. Just look at some of the new dictionary entries and you’ll see words that were considered popular slang only a few years ago.

Not only does the type of language change, so does the way that it’s delivered. Always revisit your script and make sure that it’s updated to include answers to new prompts, changes to your goods or services, and a message that truly reflects your goals.

Map out the conversational flow of the VUIs and bots, and look for places where customers are getting lost. Consider ways to improve the flow to make the communication more productive and enjoyable.  

Don’t go in blind

If you have questions about chatbot or VUI design, the experts at Botmock can help! We offer tools that can help you plan and test your script in real-life scenarios. Contact us today for more information.

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