Susse is a Senior Experience Designer at Adobe where she focuses on voice design for Adobe Experience Design (XD), a tool that allows people to design and prototype user experiences for web and mobile apps. She’s worked with companies including Red Cross, Sprint, Bank Of America, LG, UBS, Lenovo and more. Susse is a firm believer that we’ll all soon be talking to our digital devices more, in an effort to look at them less. Follow Susse on Twitter @SusseSonderby.
With the introduction and widespread application of conversational technologies in recent years, the voice design field has emerged. With popular devices like the Amazon Echo demonstrating the value of engaging with consumers through voice channels, companies are increasingly drawn towards these interfaces and are looking to voice designers to help bring this new medium to life.
When Susse joined Sayspring in 2017 to develop prototyping tools for voice interfaces, she recognized the opportunity to impact customers with an efficient platform that was both familiar to consumers and novel to brands. Alongside a small design team, Susse embraced the screen-to-voice shift and witnessed Sayspring, which was acquired by Adobe in 2018, undergo tremendous growth.
Though voice interfaces are rapidly expanding, they have yet to win over consumer trust. In general, people are creatures of habit; they tend to shy away from disruptions to their routine. To help break these patterns and win over their trust, Susse believes that we need to build more purposeful, productive voice experiences.
Audible interfaces—whether voice as an input, or speech and audio as an output—provide a valuable channel to reach a broad audience. For some—young children, or people visually or cognitively impaired—screens are not an ideal medium for receiving information.
As voice technology evolves, its use cases will grow—making access to information more tangible for a wide range of people.
Gender biases can be just as prevalent in voice design as they are in machine learning. A 2017 Quartz article revealed that Amazon Alexa responded inappropriately to sexually condescending phrases with a comment about blushing. Amazon developers ultimately fixed this issue, but it’s clear that designers still have much progress to make in order to fully eliminate gender bias.
To help combat this issue, Adobe avoids classifying voices as specific genders. With this system, gender becomes less prevalent in the way voices are designed.
As voice technology becomes increasingly human-like, users struggle to determine whether they are speaking with a human or a robot. At the 2018 Google I/O conference, a Google Duplex voice interface called a hairdresser and booked an appointment in real time. This demonstration triggered widespread feelings of unease, and speaks to larger hesitations around integrating robots into everyday society.
For voice designers, this presents an interesting design challenge: how can you design a voice interface that’s both transparent about who (or what) a person is talking to, while maintaining clear and natural conversations with people.