6 Things You Should Know for Alexa Skill Development

Six things you should know before starting your Alexa Skill Development

While there may be parallels between creating iOS apps and creating Alexa skills, your Alexa skill development needs to have a different approach for managing voice. Alexa skill development is for a new medium – voice. Designing for voice is different from designing for mobile. Consider how a mobile app works. It can offer a broad range of choices (each with its own button or icon) for the user to ponder and select from. Any more than three options for a voice-enabled skill can result in the user not remembering all of the choices. While you can use a range of interactions for Alexa (such as using voice and touch-screen actions), the more actions users need to take increases the complexity of the skill, decreasing the likelihood of its use. There are a few other things you should know before you start you Alexa skill development:

1. Just because you have a hammer does not mean your problem is a nail. You might have a great idea for an Alexa skill, but does it really address a need for Alexa users? Skills that solve actual problems or make life easier will be scooped up immediately and used repeatedly. If your skill is too niche or complicated, you may find that it is consigned to a very poorly visited part of the Alexa skills library. What trigger will cause your users to interact with your skill? People typically want to have a need met – they are bored (47 percent play music and audiobooks on their devices), hungry (“Alexa, how do I make cheese quesadillas?”) or anxious (people love the weather and traffic skills).

2. Eight seconds. It’s about as long as an IndyCar Race pit stop. It’s also an unbreakable rule of successful Alexa skills. Your customers only have 8 seconds to talk to Alexa before it times out. This means you should think carefully about what kind of information your skill will obtain from users. If the information is complex or more than a few words, you may want to include more dialogue in your skill or revise your approach.

3. Your skill is not a commercial. By adding a useful skill to the Alexa library, you are, of course, helping to build your brand message (“We are future-ready!”). However, your skill is not going to be a pivotal part of your marketing campaign. It should instead serve users by helping them to fulfill a need. Users do not want to hear a lot of advertising to get something done, so they will avoid skills that promote the business over the skill’s usefulness. (Think of all the people who use ad blockers, even on mobile devices.) While it can be used to help your customers, it is not – and should not – be used for branding.

4. Plan it out. You should plan your voice interaction model before hammering out any code. Avoid any kind of jargon and consider what kinds of prompts that the users might need to deliver the right response. How will the user know what to do with your skill? You may want to get some friends together and have them try out how the skill would work. (Keep in mind that two of the most frustrating things about interacting with a voice assistant occur when the program cannot interpret what the user is saying and the process is too difficult to navigate via voice).

5. Keep it to yourself. While consumers are willing to share some types of information with businesses, it is important in Alexa skill development to keep privacy in mind. Since Alexa skills are voice-enabled, your users will speak commands and answers that could contain personal information. You should consider the impact of having that information shared out loud or stored. What types of information do you really need to perform the skill? What kind of impact would that information have on the user or the people around them? How will you manage the data they provide?

6. There are two choices. You can either create a custom model or use a prebuilt model for your skill. Of course, the custom skill offers you the broadest range of freedom when it comes to Alexa skill development. The downside, of course, is that you will likely need to have a significant amount of coding experience in your background or a strong willingness to invest some time in creating a skill. Prebuilt models are less flexible, but they come with the user requests and utterances predefined, making it easier to generate a generic skill.

Creating an Alexa skill is a rewarding experience, but it does require some prep work before it can be successfully added to the skills library. The most important aspect of creating skills is to think of the users. What do they need? Can you make their lives easier with your skill? Are you keeping their privacy in mind? The most successful skills are user-centric, meeting needs and supplying helpful information. Got a great idea for an Alexa skill but not sure how to bring it to life? Contact us to get some insights.

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