There’s a lot of folks out there who think voice commands are going to replace interface visuals now that Siri, Alexa and Google Home are chatting up a storm. Maybe they’re right, maybe the visual interface is going the way of Amiga and Commodore and Tyrannosaurus Rex, but we think that’s missing the point.

The real question is, as the requirements of an interface change, how will it affect users and customers, and in turn the brand of the organization it represents?

Since we started designing and building interfaces we’ve always spoken about “voice” – not the voice of Alexa or Siri, but the voice of a company and its products.

This “voice,” or the manner in which a business chooses to talk and visually describe itself, its products, and its services, fundamentally sets the tone for how a customer or user thinks about them, and how a customer views a business or product determines the brand of that company or product.

For example, compare Bain & Company to Apple. Each company takes a very different approach to telling you who they are. Bain has a very conservative voice because it talks to a very conservative audience who are interested in business consultation. Apple, on the other hand, speaks in a voice of design, coolness, and technological advancement. Different audiences, different voices.

In a visual interface, the “voice” of a business shows up mainly in the look. When it comes to more verbal interfaces like chatbots and smart speakers, the option of visual cues is mostly off the table. Just about everything has to be done with words.

Microcopy has a big responsibility
Writing has always been a big part of interface design because clarity in communication is key to a great user experience. Every prompt, every error message, every tool description, and every feedback dialog must be carefully crafted to quickly and clearly let the user know what’s expected of them. The way content is written must reflect how the business communicates with its customers and users – that’s its “voice.”

The entire brand of a company comes down to a speech bubble
With the massive surge in chatbot implementations across a wide variety of industries, the entire brand of a company depends now comes down to a speech bubble – how that chatbot delivers information sets the tone for the entire length of the user/product relationship. Every response the chatbot gives, every question it asks, and every inability it has, must be delivered clearly, succinctly and in the voice of the business.

We’re doing a lot more writing than we used to – in fact, we’re writing complete scripts for chatbots and other conversational interfaces.

The scripts we write are designed to generate the feelings we want the user to have when they interact with the chatbot or smart speaker. As we said earlier, these feelings vary by user type, industry, B2B or B2C, and more. Friendly but not fawning. Helpful, but only to the point it’s needed, subtle in its interjections, and ready to politely hand-off to another system when appropriate – and all of it with as few words as possible.

The takeaway
Just like customer service, interfaces and the experiences they generate directly affect the brand of a business. The best user experiences feel like a seamless part of the entire user/business relationship.

Interested in talking about what you have going on? We’d love to chat with you, maybe bounce some ideas around and see if we can be helpful. Call us at 415-602-0449 or use the contact form below. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.