As smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home grow in popularity, brands and organisations are exploring new ways to engage their audiences through assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant. For many brands this may be the first time their teams have developed a voice skill, or their first time working with a partner doing so. As well as new UX, design, and development considerations, these platforms also come with new stores to release through. So what does it take to get your skill over the line and certified?
As with any maturing technology, the certification process can change often, sometimes even from project to project. To give you a starter for 10 our voice developers have put together some of the key lessons they have learned over the course of multiple voice projects across the major voice platforms.
Ultimately, this is about the roadmap to certification, but before we get to that, it’s good to recap on how voice development is enabled by the two major players and current market leaders Amazon and Google.
Both offer comprehensive developer platforms – Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) and Actions on Google – that combine a collection of tools, documentation, APIs and code samples to make it more straightforward to build skills and add functionality to each assistant. Each is designed to smooth the development path, and overall help developers, designers and brands easily access voice-enabled markets. The great thing about both developer platforms is there’s no need for a background in voice development to get started as there’s a raft of tutorials and even pre-determined frameworks to help build basic skills.
To save time and delays as you approach the launch of your skill, here’s a couple of steps you should take early in your project:
Both Amazon and Google will test out your skill as part of the certification process. While they won’t test your content (other than making sure it doesn’t breach their content policies), they will be making sure your skill doesn’t fall over as soon as someone tries to speak to it, so make sure you’ve done thorough testing.
Functional testing using development simulators enables comprehensive testing on both of the major voice platforms. However as in every platform ‘war’ there’s different terminology to consider and slightly different pathways to test your skill.
Our Lab article 11 Tips for Testing Voice Skills on Alexa and Google Assistant is a great resource for highlighting what’s different in testing a voice project and how you can make it go smoothly.
Quality assurance testing has to be performed in-house if you want your skill to gain certification. So if you’re beta testing with a limited group, follow these steps to ensure they have a good experience.
If you’ve checked off all these from your list, the next step is submitting your skill for certification. This is where the platform will review the skill or action and determine if it is ready to go live or needs more work.
Certification time can vary depending on the type and complexity of your skill or action and it’s important to build this time into your project timeline. In our experience, it’s typically five days for Amazon and around three days for Google but keep in mind it’s common for first time skill developers to have their first submission rejected with feedback, requiring changes before resubmission.
The top reasons skills fail certification can be categorised into two groups:
It’s important to note that while your skill may meet all of the functional requirements, the platforms may still reject your skill if they think the user experience isn’t that great. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go away and make changes, you can resubmit and have it accepted, but it’s always good to pay attention to their suggestions to boost your skill’s chance of a better user experience and a higher rating.
You can’t really control your skill’s definitive go live date. Once you’ve received certification, your skill will automatically go live and be available to the public to use. On Google you can unpublish until your chosen ‘go live’ date but there will be a brief window when your skill is open to the public. Amazon don’t allow automatic skill unpublishing, so it’s best to have associated marketing ready to go when your skill receives certification.
Once your skill is certified and live, a new developer version will automatically be created. This lets you continue improving and refining your skill, ready for your next update without impacting the live version.
So that’s a range of insight, troubleshooting and tips to get a voice skill or action certification ready, all from a developer’s point-of-view. Hopefully this makes the journey to certification that bit easier and speeds up the process from your initial starting point to getting that all important ‘live’ notification. Now you’re ready to concentrate on your next development challenge.
If you’re thinking about how your brand can leverage voice, with Alexa Skill Development or Actions on Google get in touch, there’s nothing we like better than talking about our next voice project.