Designing for Voice with NHS Digital – Leeds Digital Festival 2019

May 9, 2019 1:26 pm

Designing for Voice with NHS Digital – Leeds Digital Festival 2019



The topic everyone is talking about, with businesses trying to see whether Voice is the technology for them, we as researchers need to understand how this technology works so we can help make it usable. As part of the Leeds Digital Festival, we attended a ‘Designing for voice’ workshop run by NHS Digital.

The workshop aimed to help people from different backgrounds, from researchers and designers to people who weren’t even working with voice interfaces but were just interested in learning more about the technology; and that’s exactly what it did.

Be user centered

The workshop was split into two sections. In the morning we were introduced to the current usage statistics of voice-controlled assistants and how they are currently being used. We were then split into groups and were given the task of conducting ‘Wizard of Oz’ research to think about how a voice assistant skill would work for a ‘chocolate brownie’ recipe. This task really got the room thinking and brought teams together to try and figure out what the best approach was for this type of voice skill.

Just before we took a break for lunch we were given the task of creating a proto-persona of someone who could benefit from using a voice user interface. This short task had us putting ourselves in the shoes of our ‘user’ to think about their needs and wants. This worked as a great technique to get our teams focused on specific user journeys.

“Designing for voice is different than designing for a graphical user interface.”

After a quick pit stop for lunch, we gathered back into our groups and started discussing designing for conversations. Each group chose a scenario to design for. Our group chose to design a voice user interface that could assist someone who was living alone with dementia. Working with people with different skills, insights and ideas created a powerful working environment with ideas challenged and there so improved. Groups were given guidance from the excellent facilitators to create a skill that could easily be connected to an Amazon Echo device and then demonstrated with other teams to show what we had achieved in a short period of time. 

Our designs weren’t perfect, they were never going to be, but by creating proto-personas and working together we were able to bring ideas together that were nearly ready to be tested with real users. All in one day.

Building our prototype

Our key takeaways from the workshop were:

  • Talk it out – By speaking aloud user journeys within your design teams with one person imitating the device and another playing the part of your persona you are able to quickly and easily iron out any issues before you even consider prototyping.
  • The Wizard of Oz methodology is a great way of testing voice systems – read more about it in one of my earlier articles
  • Remember that the words are the interface in voice, voice assistants must understand every utterance and let users speak in their own words.
  • There are voice prototyping tools readily available – go and try them out. For example:
  • Include as many people from different backgrounds in your design process, you will learn a lot more!

Thanks to NHS Digital for a very informative and fun workshop!