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Voice User Interface

Finding a solution to help seniors who have little or no experience in technology learn how to communicate with and understand a native voice interface on a medical device wearable


Client project to design and create native Voice User Interface content and dialogue flow for an eldercare medical device wearable.


The objective is to design a simple and intuitive native voice user interface for seniors over 75 so they understand how to communicate to their medical device wearable by commands,  interactions and simple graphics.


My approach is focused on research, content strategy, IA, accessibility, usability heuristics, and current voice UI best practices. I researched and attended workshops on Amazon Alexa and Google home  VUI design guides for inspiration and implemented practices into a native design process.


•  Voice User Interface information hierarchy, dialogue flow and script for initial voice training of wearable to seniors, including intents and utterances

• Visual content, including text and icons

•  Quick start guide collateral

•  Work side-by-side with CEO, CTO, customer service, software engineers, and other team members in a Lean UX iterative environment




•  Speech, visual and  hearing impediments of those over 75 years old

•  Voice requires cognitive processing so it's easy to overwhelm the listener

•  Hick's Law - limit choices

Information Architecture

•  Dialog management; prioritize information

•  Design a linear experience

•  Use some spontaneity; repetition is a good teaching tool but can be monotonous

Start with a conversation

•   Brief and relevant; cut out extra words and qualifiers (adverbs and passive voice)

•  Clearly present options without too many questions

•  Make it clear that the user needs to respond


Design for the ear

•  Read  out loud; use simulator to hear how service interprets text

•  Make it easy for senior to remember commands

•  Use the oxford comma to help create pauses in speech

Listen to how people talk and consider how they listen

•  Context is key

•  Identify conversational patterns

•  Understand how questions are asked and answered

•  Consider high pitch and low pitch sounds in words

My Application of  Nielsen Norman Group's
UI Design Usability Heuristics

to VUI Design Principles

Visibility of system status

•  Write dialogue with intent that listeners know where they are

•  Give regular feedback

•  Make interface discoverable; present all options clearly at any given time

Match between system and real world

•  Start with a conversation by using words that are natural and spontaneous

•  Remove artificial syntax and non-conversational words


User control and freedom

•  Make it easy for the listener to have commands or questions repeated, yet commands should not feel didactic to listener

•  Listener's ability to exit conversation at anytime

•  Device cannot interrupt listener; permission-only conversation

Consistency and standards

•  Identify conversational patterns

•  Consider audience and their listening, hearing and understanding capabilities (such as, seniors understand low pitch sounds more than high pitch)

Error prevention

•  Listener should not feel at blame for the device having an error and not understanding them (there is a difference among hearing, listening and understanding and they all take concentration)

•  Listener should feel supported by the voice device


Flexibility and efficiency of use

•  Context is important; consider colloquial synonyms

•  Don't assume that listener knows what to do

•  Understand how questions are asked and answered

•  Allow listeners to not have to think about what to say, and allow them to not remember how to say it


Aesthetic and minimalist design

•  Less is more; sentences should brief

•  Clearly present options and avoid too many questions or options

• Consider grammar and syntax: cut out extra words like qualifiers such as adverbs, passive voice, and jargon or slang

Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors

•  Make it clear that users need to respond

•  Listener should not be exposed directly to error handling

•  Let listener know what and where the error is and direct them to a place where they don't make an error


Help and documentation

•  Offer help for complex situations

•  Empty pauses (time) make listener feel like they are doing something wrong

•  VUI should respond immediately if they need help

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