What Leaders at VaynerSmart Predict for the Future of Voice Experiences

Google mini on a table surrounded by different electronicsPhoto by Jonas Leupe on Unsplash

On our Inside VOICE podcast, Keri Roberts was excited to chat with two innovative leaders at VaynerSmart—an extension of the digital services powerhouse: Vaynermedia led by the renowned Gary Vaynerchuk.

The first episode featured Director of Innovation Claire Mitchell who talked about the current state of design and where it's headed; while the second episode invited VP Head Patrick Givens to spill his thoughts on Voice on the go. Both are professionals in the thick of designing and marketing Voice experiences, so these episodes are an open window into what's really happening in the industry.

We think their insights are too good to be missed by anyone who prefers to skip podcasts, so this post will summarize the most valuable and thought-provoking notes from both interviews.

The transition to better interface design

"Our interfaces don't have to be designed the way that they are currently." Claire Mitchell states, "It's all about questioning the way that our interfaces are designed at the moment."

The interfaces we use every day are, as Claire points out, based on past interactions. We use folders to organize content, pages when browsing websites, a diskette icon to save, and many other semi-historical UI elements. These are all things that designers have carried over from real-world interactions to make new interfaces seem familiar and intuitive.

But, as we move into an entirely new ecosystem of interfaces without files, folders or even screens, forward-thinking designers like Claire are pushing for new paradigms and new metaphors. She says it's time for some much-needed UI spring cleaning where menus and pages are tossed aside to give way to a more conversational approach to design.

"We may be holding ourselves back because we're allowing our designs to be dictated by those historical paradigms, rather than thinking about what is the ideal future interaction."

The future of voice design

As for what's in store for voice-first interfaces, Claire believes that the industry often overlooks user inputs and outputs when dealing with Voice or conversational design. "We sometimes speak about multi-modal as an afterthought," she tells our podcast host, Keri Roberts.

She also believes that the distinction of "Voice designer" from a regular product designer will eventually disappear, leading to the general practice of anyone working on a product or digital experience to understand all the user inputs at their disposal. This includes voice, gestures, sensor input, and text or image recognition.

Recommendations for incoming voice designers

Claire's arrival to the Voice scene has been a long, winding road with both artistic and scientific pit stops—an experience she's certain many others in the industry can empathize with. But this pinball journey has allowed Claire to gain a unique perspective when it comes to designing digital experiences.

"Innovation is really not just about novelty, it's about the ability to see an existing challenge or situation through an unexpected lens."

As a result, Claire highly recommends dabbling in both hard and soft sciences, understanding how things work, and questioning why they work that way. Granted, there may be areas that you don't particularly feel will be useful in Voice design, but as Claire assures, "It's only in retrospect that you start to see the patterns that brought you to where you are."

So keep learning, embrace curiosity and nurture your excitement for what's possible.


Moving Voice beyond smart speakers

To reinforce Claire's point on Voice technologists emerging from wildly different backgrounds, Patrick Givens is a poetry major who stumbled into advertising and eventually joined VaynerMedia. Based on Gary Vaynerchuk's interest in digging new marketing opportunities with emerging technologies, Patrick founded the VaynerSmart division to do precisely that. Lately, their brightest opportunity has been in the world of Voice.

One of his main headliners is "conversational AI on the move," in which we move beyond smart speakers and into mobile technologies.

Taking Voice on the go

Today, Voice is primarily being used in two ways:

Voice as "instructionals": This is where companies embed Voice to help users access information easier. They can check their bank account, search for the nearest coffee shop, pull analytics, find recipes, and dozens more functionalities. 

Voice as controls: In this case, users pass the effort of controlling their environment to their Voice assistants. This includes turning on the lights, locking doors, playing their favorite songs, etc.

More recently, Voice has been moving into more flexible devices, like the Amazon Echo buds and many other exciting wearables. And this is what Patrick finds the most promising.

"We've been slowly but steadily expanding the contexts in which users come across voice, but once you get to this 'on the go' piece, it's much more open ended." Patrick says. He adds that now it's a question of thinking about experience design that connects users with brands at the right time. For a retailer, this could be while the user is comparing two different products; for a tourism company it could be while the user is perusing the city.

"There are all sorts of new ways to think about the value we can provide with Voice where it's not bound to the home," he concludes.

Tips for building on-the-go Voice experiences

The idea of taking Voice outside of the home or office building hasn't been around for that long, so people like Patrick are still figuring out the wiring. Although he can confidently give two main tips for brands looking to jump into the trend before it gets too crowded.

Get into the user's mindset: This is the part of the planning stage where brands need to envision where and when the user would interact with their Voice experience, and forecast their needs in those situations.

Tailor the experience to the device: When designing the actual experience, you'll need to prod the user for details on what hardware they're using so you can tailor the rest of the experience. As of now, there's no sneaky way of capturing that kind of data, so it's important to ask them early on to make sure you're designing for the right devices.

That's all Patrick is willing to let on for now, but it's enough for brands to start mulling over ideas to keep up with the rapidly-changing voice technology landscape.

Learn more about the present and future of Voice

If you found this interesting then there's much more for you to learn on our Inside VOICE podcast. Go ahead, scroll through the episodes and see what catches your attention.

Also, don't forget to subscribe to our mailing list for a weekly content update so you don't miss a single industry insight. (Keep scrolling and you'll see the signup.)

Lastly, if you're eager to hear more game-changing knowledge from leaders in Voice, don't miss our (completely virtual event) VOICE Global this June 9th. It'll be brimming with keynotes, workshops, live QAs, and even some entertainment. Connect from any country, at any time. All you have to do to join is let us know you're interested and we'll keep you in the loop.