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PHOTO: Aaron Paul

Think back to the last time you interfaced with technology. How did you do it? Did you answer email on your laptop? Watch a video on your tablet? Or, maybe you scrolled through Instagram on your smartphone?

These touch-based interactions are still the avenues of choice for many, but voice experiences have become commonplace in homes across the nation. In fact, according to Deloitte, one-third of US consumers use some form of voice-assisted technology on a weekly basis.

Voice is a natural way to interact with technology. Simply say a command and you get a result, such as news updates, checking on upcoming appointments, and placing takeout orders. And that’s not just at home or at work, it’s everywhere — even on the road. More than half of all drivers now use voice assistants in their cars.

It’s Beyond the Sound of Your Voice: Think Immersive

From birth, you learn to interact with the world and with others using all of your senses, which is why it's only logical that our interactions with technology incorporate many of the same capabilities. But until relatively recently, voice speakers lacked the sophistication to keep up.

Interacting with technology through voice is a much more satisfying experience when hearing is not the only sense involved. As seen in the Amazon Echo Show and Google Home Hub, the combination of multi-sensory elements provides users with a more immersive experience.

Adding visual and touch to voice provides users with an experience that leverages the best these elements offer, while minimizing the weaknesses of each. Utilizing voice, for instance, frees your vision to focus on the road while driving — a critical safety factor. Supplementing voice with the visual, on the other hand, can capitalize on the ease of conveying information through graphical representations in many situations. For example, a smart speaker could read the day’s weather to you while displaying the week’s forecast on a screen. And touch can serve as a backup to voice in circumstances where voice might be less appropriate or might pose a security risk, such as entering a password.

Related Article: How Voice Is Changing Customer Experience Practices for the Better

6 Design Considerations for Multimodal Experiences

Multimodal experiences simply work better than relying on any single mode of technology interface. As consumers use them together more and more, the relationship between voice, visual and touch will become increasingly important for brands as they look to interact with target audiences in the most convenient way possible.

That said, incorporating multiple senses into the user experience adds an element of complexity to the design process. Focusing on the following six key design considerations can help ensure the development of a quality multimodal experience:

  1. Design from the ground up. The proper starting point for designing a multimodal interface is at the beginning, not as an add-on to an existing system. It should be a clean-sheet design.
  2. Consider multiple use cases and devices. One of the great benefits of a multimodal interface is that it vastly expands the range of applicable use cases. But that benefit also requires you carefully consider the devices that you want to be included in your multimodal experience, and design accordingly.
  3. Develop complementary voice and visual elements. Voice and visual have the potential to work together with symphonic elegance and precision. Each is capable of perfectly complementing the other — but only if you design them to do so.
  4. Think beyond images and video. The visual leg of your multimodal tripod offers a world of opportunity for enhancing the user experience, but it requires some thought and creativity. Don’t limit yourself to static, still images and conventional video. Visually enticing text, attention-grabbing LED cues, and even avatars are among the many means of dramatically enhancing the visual experience.
  5. Design from user’s point-of-view. Design should occur, figuratively speaking, though the eyes of the user, and not through the eyes of the designer. Easier said than done, of course, but essential. Gather user expectations and feedback during the ideation and prototyping phases to inform your design. Without constantly evaluating the users’ point-of-view, it will likely result in a fatally flawed design.
  6. Get feedback from users. Who better to tell you how well you’re serving consumers than the consumers themselves? The ability to offer your customers a quality multimodal experience provides your organization with a competitive advantage that will soon be no less than an absolute necessity, so understanding how they use the experiences and how they feel about them is critical.

Related Article: Meet the New 'Multimodal' Customer Service

Are You Ready for Multimodal?

Using multiple technology elements together is the future of customer interactions. Keeping in mind these six design suggestions will help you create the proper multimodal experience and ensure your company will be thriving in tomorrow’s multimodal reality.