Here are a few tips for developing apps for smarthome devices.
Smarthome devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home have taken the world by storm.
It’s estimated that 15 million Amazon Echoes have been sold. Estimates for Google Home sit around 5 million. One forecast predicts that by 2024, there will be 100 million smarthome devices in people’s homes.
With such massive growth, it’s easy to see the opportunities available for developing apps that work on these voice-activated personal assistants.
We just have to remember that smarthome apps are different from smartphone apps. Although smartphone apps often have voice-activated features, that’s rarely their primary mode.
Without search boxes to type in, the way that people will search for things is going to be very different. We just don’t talk to an app in the same way that we type in a search field or interact with an app we’re looking at. That’s why preparation before the development really begins is so important.
Keeping this difference in mind, let’s look at three tips for the early stages of developing apps for smarthome devices.
What are people looking for in the search box on your website?
This will give you a lot of insight into what types of questions you need to make sure your app is listening for.
The downside is that it won’t help you very much with the phrasing. As mentioned above, people tend to speak very differently than they type.
A search box query tends to be something succinct, like “Italian restaurants.” A vocal query is more likely to use natural language, like “What’s a good Italian restaurant nearby?”
With a search box, the difference in language style won’t make much difference in whether or not you find a place to grab a plate of spaghetti, but with voice commands it can be a problem if the developer wasn’t expecting your phrasing.
Still, this step shouldn’t be skipped. It’s a valuable source of data that can be combined with information gathered in the next two tips to give a broader vision of what your app needs to accomplish.
If your company has a customer service department, now is a good time to give them a visit. As with the previous tip, talking to customer service helps you find out what types of things customers are asking about on a regular basis.
But, customer service has one advantage over the website here. They are talking to real people, so they can also give you valuable insight on how the customers ask about things. What phrases do they use to convey their questions?
This can also be useful if you have a product or service that is frequently mispronounced. Customer service can help you realize the various ways that people might incorrectly say the word or words, and this can be accounted for in the final product.
Have a user “test” the voice functions. Basically, have them pretend they are using the app, while actually having a person on the other end to represent what functionality goes on behind the scenes.
For instance, say your app is for flower delivery. If this was a website or a traditional app, the user would go through a list of selections to choose their order.
For the mock user, instead of running through a series of linear voice commands, they might just say something like “I need two-dozen roses delivered to my address tomorrow after 5pm. Use the usual credit card.”
Not only does this help with continuing to gather data on the types of phrases that would be used in real situations, but it also gives you an idea of what background functions need to be executed based on one phrase that would generally take several separate selections on a screen.
When it comes to developing apps for smarthome devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home, the emphasis is all on the voice-activation. There are tons of opportunities popping up to take advantage of the popularity of these and other voice-activated personal assistant devices.
But it all starts with changing the mindset of how we proceed in the early stages of app development.
If we take the time to gather data about how people speak rather than type and what kinds of questions they’re asking, it can save a lot of time during the later development stages.
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