Get Started with the Guide

The emergence of voice user interfaces (VUIs), such as Amazon Alexa, isn’t an incremental improvement to existing technology; it marks a big shift in human-computer interaction. As such, designing skills for VUIs is different from designing apps for graphical user interfaces (GUI). Rather than design VUIs as replacements for keyboard, mouse, or touch controls, you need to change your whole design approach to create truly conversational, voice-first interactions. To be effective, you must design VUIs to adapt to the many ways customers might express meaning and intent through speech.

Alexa provides the natural language processing (NLP) engine for you, but you'll still need to train the NLP to your skill. To do that, you need to create a range of phrases or utterances a customer could say for your skill to interact with and have an answer for. Using a variety of utterances to train the NLP ensures that customers can talk naturally, as they do every day, instead of having to remember an exact phrase to get Alexa to respond to them.

This guide helps you understand the principles of situational voice design so that you can create voice-first skills that are natural, user-centric, and accompanied by complementary visual design.

The Alexa Design Guide is comprehensive and broken down into multiple sections. To help you get started designing your first skill or refer back to an area of interest, let’s briefly walk through each of the most important areas of the guide.

Whether you’re new to designing for voice or have specific problems you’re trying to solve for, first see Voice Design for Alexa Experiences. This section is divided into the four design patterns for situational design:

  1. Be adaptable: Let users speak in their own words.
  2. Be personal: Individualize your entire interaction.
  3. Be available: Collapse your menus; make all options top-level.
  4. Be relatable: Talk with them, not at them.

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the use cases and patterns, see Understand the Voice Design Process to learn how to put it together into a design artifact that you can use to help guide you when you’re building your skill. Also, see the Establish and Maintain Trust section to avoid potential pitfalls with customers while you’re designing your skill.

For specific guidelines, there are a few sections to consider as you develop your skill further and want to add to your design:

Once you’ve established your voice design for your skill, it’s time to learn about Visual Design for Alexa Experiences. This section covers how to design for devices with a screen so you can provide visual accompaniment to your voice-first experience using Alexa Presentation Language (APL).