If you're a new or experienced designer of conversational voice-first experiences, this handy reference provides actionable answers to key aspects of eyes-busy, hands-busy, voice-only user interfaces. Designed as a companion to books about conversational voice design, this guide includes important details regarding eyes-free, hands-free, voice-only interfaces delivered by Amazon Echo, Google Nest, and a variety of in-car experiences.

Authors Ahmed Bouzid and Weiye Ma provide far-field voice best practices and recommendations in a manner similar to The Elements of Style, the popular American English writing style guide. Like that book, The Elements of Voice First Style provides direct, succinct explanations that focus on the essence of each topic. You'll find answers quickly without having to spend time searching through other sources.

With this guide, you'll be able to:

  • Craft just the right language to enable your voicebot to effectively communicate with humans
  • Create conversational voice interfaces that are robust enough to handle errors and failures
  • Design highly usable conversational voice interfaces by paying attention to small details that can make or break the experience
  • Build a design for a voice-only smart speaker that doesn't require customers to use their eyes or hands

Table of Contents

  1. Preface
    1. Who Should Read This Book?
    2. Why We Wrote This Book
    3. Navigating This Book
  2. 1. The Elements of Conversation
    1. The Ontology of Conversations
    2. The Conversational Actions
    3. Start Conversation
    4. Articulate content
    5. Offer Turn
    6. Request Turn
    7. Cede Turn
    8. Retain Turn
    9. Seize Turn
    10. Interrupt
    11. Pause
    12. Resume after Pause
    13. Repeat
    14. Start Over
    15. Terminate
    16. The Conversational States
    17. The Internal Conversational Context
    18. Conversational Signalling
    19. Signaling States
    20. Signaling Transitions
  3. 2. The Rules of Conversation
    1. The Cooperative Principle
    2. The Maxim of Quality
    3. The Maxim of Quantity
    4. The Maxim of Relevance
    5. The Maxim of Manner
  4. 3. The Basic Tenets
    1. 1. The voicebot is not a human
    2. 2. The voicebot should be as smart as the data that it has -- and no more!
    3. 3. The voicebot should be consistent
    4. 4. The voicebot should be transparent
    5. 5. The voicebot should behave respectfully
  5. 4. The Extra-Conversational Context
    1. 1. The State of The User
    2. 2. The Physical Context
    3. 3. The Social Context
    4. 4. The Recent Context
    5. 5. User Patterns
    6. 6. User-base Patterns
  6. 5. The UI-Use Case Fit
    1. An Illustrative Use Case
    2. Some basic heuristics
  7. 6. The Elements of Starting
    1. 1. Be brief
    2. 2. Use an audio icon
    3. 3. Drop the “Welcome to...”
    4. 4. Never ever say, “Please listen carefully as our options have changed”
    5. 5. Have the voicebot refer to itself in the first person
    6. 6. Drop “You can interrupt me at any time”
    7. 7. Keep the origination context in mind
    8. 8. Remember the user’s preferences
    9. 9. Anticipate user-specific requests
    10. 10. Anticipate general user-base requests