the ConversAItion: Season 1 Episode 3

Voice & Designing for Inclusivity

Jim speaks with Susse Jensen, Senior Experience Designer at Adobe, about the growing importance of voice interface design. They discuss the ways in which businesses can design voice technology to transform human-to-machine interactions and provide inclusive, productive digital experiences.

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“I’m hoping we can build better experiences with voice and really take advantage of what it’s good for, like giving you the freedom to focus on things that don’t keep your eyes locked to your screen or your hands locked to your keyboard.”
Headshot of Susse Sonderby

About Susse Jensen

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.

Short on time? Here are 5 quick takeaways:

  1. Voice interface design is a fast-growing field that’s increasingly valuable.

    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.

  2. The screen-to-voice shift will gain traction with users when voice proves to be more efficient AND more enjoyable.

    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.

  3. Voice interfaces add tremendous value in scenarios where screens are inadequate.

    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. 

  4. Voice design is not immune to gender stereotypes.

    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.

  5. Transparency is crucial in voice design to successfully mitigate the “creepy factor.”

    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.

Check out more episodes of The ConversAItion.