CityParks was a personal project I created to learn more about the Alexa Skills Kit and Voice User Interface Design. People tend to prefer living in their own bubble, often repeating a cyclical pattern day to day. CityParks is a way for users living in the Central Philadelphia area to get a change of scenery and explore the green areas the city has to offer.
VUI Designer and Developer
Determining how to design CityParks was quite the challenge. My preference would be to allow for flexible input to be used to find parks. For example, users should be able to both ask for parks by neighborhood and parks by amenities. I decided for this iteration to only use a 'parks by neighborhood' search. This allowed me to focus on the conversational interface and design a quality experience before moving to a more extensive design.
I started this design process by reading and researching the Alexa conversation learning materials available online. The Amazon Alexa Voice Design Guide was particularly useful, as was the Codecademy Introduction to Alexa course. From there, testing other Alexa Skills and searching out useful tips on forums helped me round out my knowledge of what was possible and would make the most meaningful interactions for users. Using this research, I came up with a few goals:
- 1. Design a Skill that could easily be expanded in subject matter, functionality, and location.
- 2. Emphasize useful conversation and informative but brief interactions.
- 3. Explore available functionality purely within the technology to gain knowledge on every aspect of the experience.
After deciding on a few potential conversations, I was able to pull together a user journey flow for how certain intents could bring users throughout the experience. It was important to understand these conversations because they provided the base with which I could expand many utterances to achieve a common goal. This also helped in identifying slots for these utterances, because there are so many parks in the Philadelphia area.
Expanding on this user flow, I put together more concrete conversations. Analyzing
different start and ends points
to the design was important because users could choose to go through the Skill in any number of
the most flexibility was necessary. In this process, I also found a few holes in my
guide. I hadn’t considered intents that wanted to know the available neighborhoods and I needed to
the potential for Alexa to repeat certain answers because some of the utterances were so lengthy.
I had also considered abandoning my goals of keeping everything within the Voice Design and using an API to send users visual directions to the park. Exploring this addition, I found it to be more useful to simply provide the address for now. However, I am continuing to explore this as I believe it would provide the most useful experience.