Lily Van
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Interactive Media 3 Progress Blog

Blog dedicated to interactive media 3 progress recording and documentation. Will upload workflows, case studies, and all other process work here.

The focus of this class is around designing for voice user interfaces.

Week 8 - Case Study

Final case study for Alexa Skill Project 1.

What is voice UI design?

Voice UI design is communication and problem solving through means of the user, and a device that responds with audio feedback. This kind of design relies on understanding user inputs and gauging the responses that the device will give in return.

Project Brief

Task was create a voice interface utilizing the Amazon Alexa and its corresponding hardware, the Echo Dot. This includes designing the voice experience utilizing Amazon Blueprints and other developer resources for skill creation.


8-Bit Second is a listening game where players will be given stories about various video games, then asked a series of questions that relies on remembering the information that you heard.


  • Press release

  • Initial research of skill

  • Skill prototype and demos

  • User research testing

  • Finalizing prototype

  • Final presentation deck

VUI Goals

  • Understand user responses

  • Understand user input and feedback required

  • Develop a working VUI prototype

  • Learn about VUI needs

Design Research

  • Competitive research

    • Learned about other skills on the marketplace that were similar

    • Understood demographics that were no being reach in the Alexa store

    • Gained knowledge about pop culture games that were already popular on the Alexa store

    • Research about Alexa skills and what they could do

  • Qualitative research

    • Learned what makes something fun for a user

    • What users would want to play with

    • Understand user speech patterns

    • Understand user engagement with Alexa

User Research

Test design:

Series of 1-on-1 users tests where users will use an Echo Dot to test out the skill. Users will be recorded while using the skill, and then asked to answer debriefing questions after their test. This will be done in various locations, wherever users find most convenient.

There will also be remote users tests, where users with Alexa devices will be asked to download a skill through a beta link, then record their journey while using it. Users will then be asked to fill out a survey afterwards for any thoughts on the overall use of the skill.

May additionally do a test with a group of users, in order to determine if the skill is more engaging in a group setting.

Tests will be conducted from March 7th-8th, 2019.

  • In-person test

  • Online tests(?)

Testing Questions:

  • (before) What do you expect from a game music quiz?

  • How do they start the skill? Do they do this successfully?

  • What kinds of things did users struggle with? What wasn’t fun?

  • What was fun? What did you like? Scale of 1-5 how fun is this?

  • Other thoughts?


Tested with 3 users on two occasions, one for an initial prototype, then a secondary prototype.

  • 2/3 users found the skill long

  • Users found stories hard to listen to

  • Difficult to understand information

  • Wanted more variety

  • Users found it repetitive

With these insights I wanted to think about how I could further create joy in the Alexa skill. I added sound effects and shortened stories to see if this would help. I also included more of a personal narrative to the “characters” telling the stories.

Overall users found the idea of the skill fun and something new, but the execution of the prototype and the challenges that you face when designing for an audio interface makes it difficult to portray those ideas.

View the usability research document here.

Final Product Demo

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Project Retrospective

What was most challenging about creating an original product concept? What part of this project did you enjoy most?

  1. Describe the differences in your approach between designing for digital interfaces and designing for voice. What were the similarities? What were the differences?

    • This was really difficult! I think what made designing for interfaces similar was just the research approach aspect. It’s really difficult to determine user needs because it relies on a lot more factors. Users can’t really problem solve for themselves across VUI. They have to rely on what is already existent within the VUI’s preset responses, and that makes it hard. Understanding user flow is not as straightforward through audio commands is another hurdle.

  1. What new challenges did you face when prototyping and testing your voice UI product? How did you overcome them?

    • The biggest hurdle I had to overcome was the fact that I can’t really code at all. This means I had to rely on the templates and blueprints that already existed within the Amazon developer system that could help me create a prototype. As a result of this my idea changed a lot from the initial idea. Initially, I wanted to create a skill that required on music in order to play the game. In this way there would’ve been more variety and categories. Instead, I had to create a skill based around my abilities, and this shifted the work a lot.

  2. Between designing for digital and designing for voice, which do you prefer? Why?

    • Although I did appreciate the challenge of VUI design, I think that there are too many variables in it for me. I really enjoy digitally designing because I can visualize things in an easier way. It’s easier for my to understand the overall user mentality model over digital because it’s already become habit and familiar from my own experience. There are too many outliers to consider when designing for voice.

  3. For this project, you had to simultaneously focus on original concept, optimizing its usability, and bringing the product to life. How did you juggle those responsibilities? Which were your strengths? Which can you improve on, and how will you work on those areas of improvement in future projects?

    • It was difficult to juggle all these things because I was already limited in my abilities to do something further from the start. I did try my best, though! It was interesting to think about how much you had to think about in terms of user responses to audio hardware. I feel like voice design is more psychological and behavioral based, having to really understand users and their needs in order to design an effective product. I hope that next time I do a VUI project I give myself a little more time to focus on certain areas of prototyping before moving forward.

Lily Van