With the huge rise in popularity of smart speakers over the last couple of years (nearly a quarter of US households now own one), signalling a potentially visual-less future, what could the implications be for the web design industry? As we start to turn to Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant for our answers, will we ever need to click, tap or type on a screen again? Well, we can’t predict the future, but we can have an educated guess.
The information still needs to come from somewhere
Remember that smart speakers don’t pluck their answers out of thin air – they are basically doing a web search for you and presenting you with some answers. The same way Google does when you type in a search query. If we just stopped creating websites or databases, then those smart speakers would end up not being not that smart at all. This determines that every business should still have some sort of web “presence”.
Optimizing your website, and your business
The best thing to do in this “assistant age” is to ensure your website is optimized for voice search, which is slightly different to voice assistance. Voice search implies that you’re using a visual device (smart phone for example) but using your voice to make the search, which then presents you with some visual results. This scenario doesn’t play out that well for smart-speakers – you’d be sat there all day as your assistant listed you out pages and pages of results. However, they will solve this problem and at present there are certain pieces of information that a voice assistant could grab for you. So structuring your website’s data and classifying its content in a way that is easy for AI to understand is the best way to future-proof your website for the smart speaker generation.
While not strictly related to your actual website, another important thing to do is to ensure you’ve claimed your Google My Business Listing. In all likelihood, smart speakers are going to bypass your website for certain types of information (e.g. phone number, operating hours etc.) and will use that listing to present the information to the user.
A different type of user experience
With the advent of the app store, it spelled doom and gloom for the web design industry. Yet, here we are – still thriving. The industry has changed, for sure, and it likely will again. One thing I can predict is that we’ll see a lot more user experience designers go into the field of audio user experience. As smart speakers allow more and more third party apps and actions onto their platform, developers will need to know how to create these experiences, ensuring they work naturally and are in keeping with the brand.
The importance of audio design
Another interesting field of design that will become ever more crucial is that of audio design. Brands are now seeing that importance, and it can be seen (or heard) with organizations like Netflix or Hulu introducing branded pieces of audio. It’s not new, but their importance will only increase as society moves more audio-centric. Perhaps one day a brand’s signature sound will be just as important as their logo? As brand developers, we need to start placing importance on these audio elements. As web designers we need to start thinking about how we will include these signature sounds into the web design experience.
We’ll always need visual
I think we can all agree that using a smart speaker is a very different experience to using a computer or mobile device. Sometimes we just need that visual – a picture is worth a thousand words, right? There is something intrinsically human about seeing and interacting with your environment, that won’t ever go away. While I believe the voice assistant will take over a small chunk of the overall internet experience, there are just some things it can’t replace.
So having said all that we have about the advent of audio, we can safely say that there will always be the need for the visual experience. Whether that will take the form of a website, I’m not so sure – probably not in the way we think of websites today any way. Either way, it’s an exciting place to be – this industry is in constant flux and it can be challenging – but in a good way. Let’s check back in 5-10 years and see where we’re at!