The Right Number is a gentle, noncommercial space where your only job is to be yourself. Upon dialing you’ll be connected to a voicemail box and given a brief prompt. You have three minutes to answer however you’d like.
This is a great short introduction to using VoiceOver with Safari by the one and only Ethan Marcotte.
I love, love, love all the little details of HTML that Aaron offers up here. And I really like how he positions non-visual user-agents like searchbots, screen readers, and voice assisants as headless UIs.
HTML is a truly robust and expressive language that is often overlooked and undervalued, but it has the incredible potential to nurture conversations with our users without requiring a lot of effort on our part. Simply taking the time to code web pages well will enable our sites to speak to our customers like they speak to each other. Thinking about how our sites are experienced as headless interfaces now will set the stage for more natural interactions between the real world and the digital one.
Chris weighs up the ethical implications of Google Duplex:
The social hacking that could be accomplished is mind-boggling. For this reason, I expect that having human-sounding narrow AI will be illegal someday. The Duplex demo is a moment of cultural clarity, where it first dawned on us that we can do it, but with only a few exceptions, we shouldn’t.
But he also offers alternatives for designing systems like this:
- Provide disclosure, and
- Design a hot signal:
…design the interface so that it is unmistakeable that it is synthetic. This way, even if the listener missed or misunderstood the disclosure, there is an ongoing signal that reinforces the idea. As designer Ben Sauer puts it, make it “Humane, not human.”
You know how donating blood is a really good thing to do? Well, now you also donate your voice.
Ethan shares my reaction to Google Duplex:
Frankly, this technology was designed to deceive humans.
And he points out that the team’s priorities are very revealing:
I’ll say this: it’s telling that matters of transparency, disclosure, and trust weren’t considered important for the initial release.
Monzo’s guidelines for tone of voice, including a reference to “the curse of knowledge.”
Peter looks into his crystal ball for 2018 and sees computers with eyes, computers with ears, and computers with brains.
This 1993 article by Mark Weiser is relevant to our world today.
Take intelligent agents. The idea, as near as I can tell, is that the ideal computer should be like a human being, only more obedient. Anything so insidiously appealing should immediately give pause. Why should a computer be anything like a human being? Are airplanes like birds, typewriters like pens, alphabets like mouths, cars like horses? Are human interactions so free of trouble, misunderstanding, and ambiguity that they represent a desirable computer interface goal? Further, it takes a lot of time and attention to build and maintain a smoothly running team of people, even a pair of people. A computer I need to talk to, give commands to, or have a relationship with (much less be intimate with), is a computer that is too much the center of attention.
I love what Ben is doing with this single-serving site (similar to my design principles collection)—it’s a collection of handy links and resources around voice UI:
Designing a voice interface? Here’s a useful list of lists: as many guiding principles as we could find, all in one place. List compiled and edited by Ben Sauer @bensauer.
BONUS ITEM: Have him run a voice workshop for you!
This article about a specific security flaw in voice-activated assistants raises a bigger issue:
User-friendliness is increasingly at odds with security.
This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while. “Don’t make me think” is a great mantra for user experience, but a terrible mantra for security.
Our web browsers easily and invisibly collect cookies, allowing marketers to follow us across the web. Our phones back up our photos and contacts to the cloud, tempting any focused hacker with a complete repository of our private lives. It’s as if every tacit deal we’ve made with easy-to-use technology has come with a hidden cost: our own personal vulnerability. This new voice command exploit is just the latest in a growing list of security holes caused by design, but it is, perhaps, the best example of Silicon Valley’s widespread disregard for security in the face of the new and shiny.
The transcript of Josh’s fantastic talk on machine learning, voice, data, APIs, and all the other tools of algorithmic design:
The design and presentation of data is just as important as the underlying algorithm. Algorithmic interfaces are a huge part of our future, and getting their design right is critical—and very, very hard to do.
Josh put together ten design principles for conceiving, designing, and managing data-driven products. I’ve added them to my collection.
- Favor accuracy over speed
- Allow for ambiguity
- Add human judgment
- Advocate sunshine
- Embrace multiple systems
- Make it easy to contribute (accurate) data
- Root out bias and bad assumptions
- Give people control over their data
- Be loyal to the user
- Take responsibility
A style guide for voice interfaces.
Ellen goes through the principles behind the tone of voice on the new Clearleft site:
- Our clients are the heroes and heroines, we facilitate their journey.
- Speak as an individual doing whatever it is you love. Expose lovable details.
- Use the imperative, kill the “-ing”.
- Be evocative and paint the picture. Show don’t tell.
- Be a practical friend.
- Be inquisitive. Ask smart questions that need solving.
Aaron documents how he posts to his website through his Amazon Echo. No interface left behind.
Jason breaks down the myths of inputs being tied to device form factors. Instead, given the inherent uncertainty around input, the only sensible approach is progressive enhancement.
Now is the time to experiment with new forms of web input. The key is to build a baseline input experience that works everywhere and then progressively enhance to take advantage of new capabilities of devices if they are available.
Some interesting outcomes from testing gov.uk with blind users of touchscreen devices:
Rather than reading out the hierarchy of the page, some of the users navigated by moving their finger around to ‘discover’ content.
This was really interesting - traditionally good structure for screen readers is about order and hierarchy. But for these users, the physical placement on the screen was also really important (just as it is for sighted users).
If you make inaccessible iOS apps, you really only have yourself to blame.
There are also some handy tips here for getting to know VoiceOver.
The Google voicemail transcript, which begins at 11 minutes in, cracked me up.