Aura's leadership team wanted me to design a voice user-interface for their Alexa Skill idea. Aura allows users to improve and monitor their mental health by tracking their moods on a daily basis.
Voice Design, Research
Understanding the product
In order to get a comprehensive understanding of the product concept as well as establish design expectations, I interviewed key decision makers. Here's what I learned:
Aura wants to help users tackle mental health issues by utilizing Amazon's Alexa.
By utilizing voice interactions, Aura makes it quicker and easier to track moods.
Target users are those suffering from chronic or major depression.
I was given two weeks to complete the design and hand it off to developers.
Scoping the problem
Despite so many Americans struggling with depression, mental health is still an often overlooked social issue. As more voice-assistants enter our homes, there might be an opportunity to utilize this new interface to improve our emotions.
Empathizing with users
I interviewed Alexa owners to understand common pain points with voice-assistants. I put an emphasis on learning about their struggles with the new interface.
User Problem: "I hate Alexa apps that make me talk too much."
My Solution: Aura can have quick voice interactions by limiting affordances.
User Problem: "Some newer apps have such robotic and dull responses."
My Solution: Study natural conversations and integrate these responses into Aura.
User Problem: "I can never remember what apps I've installed on Alexa!"
My Solution: End all interactions with a reminder to check-in tomorrow.
User Problem: "I've been trying to get in the habit of journaling but just can't do it."
My Solution: Provide an opportunity to quickly record daily moods in just seconds.
Brainstorming design features
After conducting interviews, I was left with a ton of information. To organize all this, I utilized an affinity diagram and grouped user feedback to find common themes and patterns. This also helped me prioritize design features.
To simplify the interaction, I decided to limit functionality to two options:
Log Daily Mood
Allows users to quickly record their daily mood or emotion using just their voice.
Allows users to gain insight into their average mood throughout the week/month.
Modeling user needs
To model some of the needs and frustrations of users uncovered from the affinity maps, I created user personas. This not only helped convey my research to the client but helped them empathize with their potential users.
Testing early to track responses
The next problem that arose was that I needed to figure out a way to account for the wide range of emotions that people express and feel
My solution was to create a small prototype to hear the various ways people expressed their moods. I classified emotions into 3 categories (Good, Okay, Sad) with the goal to expand on these as we iterated the product.
I went to my local coffee shop and invited patrons to participate in usability tests. Each volunteer was told to perform a specific task (log a mood or hear average mood) and I observed how they interacted with the prototype. These early tests were fascinating, as there was so much variability in how people expressed their emotions.
Card sorting to understand mental models
To ensure that I was classifying emotions into correct categories, I performed closed card sorts.
Result of a closed card sorting session
Improving User Flow
Handling various use cases
Once I was confident with my classifications, I began testing again. This time, my focus was on improving the user flow and accounting for the various routes users might take.
Explaining the impact
Due to rapid prototyping, testing and iterating, I was able to present the voice design to Aura's development team on time. I found that out of the 10 final usability tests, 100% of participants successfully logged their mood.
Our voice is the most natural communication tool that we have. With speech-recognition technology improving at such a growing rate, understanding how to design voice experiences is a great idea for UX designers. Utilizing voice commands can result in quicker, more intuitive and delightful experiences for users. Overall this was a great learning experience for me, and I welcome others to start designing voice interfaces as well!