Developer Console Redesign
Team + My Role.
1 Lead UX Designer (me)
3 UX Designers
2 UX Researchers
10 Product Managers
Each team member participated in every stage of the UX design process, however I played a particular role in leading the UX design for new customer experience, skill building/creation, testing simulation and language models.
I also acted as team facilitator with ongoing upkeep and managing of console design decisions and process (whilst making sure that all decisions are democratic).
In November 2014, Amazon changed the landscape of voice technology with the introduction of Alexa, Amazon’s cloud-based voice service intelligent personal assistant. With Alexa, Amazon offers customers a more intuitive way to interact with natural voice experience technology.
To keep up with the excitement from the tech community wanting to get their hands on creating voice-first experiences with the newly launched Echo, in 2015, Amazon Alexa launched the first ever voice SDK with the Alexa Skills Kit in order for 3p partners to create skills for Alexa.
In favor of speed to market, the ASK team ramped up development and launched the SDK with minimal design consideration. This proved to be the right move to get developers bought into ASK, but created risks for scalability and rapid iterations based on community feedback.
By the middle of 2016, with the fast moving and competitive field of voice experience technology, the magic of the Alexa Skills Kit receded to outdated features, archaic framework, and poor customer experience. Competitors gained ground in offering newer features, specifically around creation of interaction models.
Our team brainstormed features for the developer console that would help our users achieve their goals, and grouped them based on their business value, design effort, and technical complexity. This exercise allowed us to have a holistic view of all the included features and understand the effort, scope and value of each individual feature to inform the project plan moving forward.
Talking through the flow.
Our team worked together to create a consolidated flow deck showcasing three different user flows based on the primary user stories. We provided context, situation, as well as design rationale including data points from research studies conducted throughout the research and assessment phase. We leveraged the holistic end to end flow deck for all senior leadership and stakeholder design reviews as well as presentation walkthroughs at various Alexa hosted developer events.
The developer console beta improves the end-to-end workflow by organizing skill tasks into build, test, launch, and measure phases, each of which is easily accessible from the top navigation. You can also use the left navigation to choose specific steps within each phase and to configure account linking and permissions for your skill. You can click on ‘Your Skills’ in the top navigation to easily access all of your skills.
Unified build experience.
The Build page has a much more unified build experience with all of the components in one place, including the invocation name and endpoints.
The build and save model experience now provides improved and more actionable error messages, and it also provides scalability to support working with larger models and the JSON editor. Learn more about the next iteration of the skill builder.
New Test UI supporting most Alexa features.
The Test page now supports dialog management and entity resolution. On this page, you can interact with your skill using voice or text, and test single utterances, multi-turn dialogs, and device renderings. These capabilities are a native part of the new console. The Test Your Skill page provides more details.
Guided flow for publishing skills and support for private skills.
The Launch page has better guided support for submission. It displays common validation errors and guides you on what actions to take to resolve errors before you submit. It also allows you to create and publish private skills for use with Alexa for Business.
User Retention metrics.
You can now navigate to the Measure page directly from the developer console. It now includes cohort analysis that you can use to visualize customer retention and engagement metrics of your skills over time in addition to statistics on sessions, unique customers and utterances.
I created sets of specification docs during this project to communicate requirements to the engineering team and support our quality assurance teams in writing test cases. These deliverables consisted of the CX Spec—requirements and customer journeys and the design system (informing the typography, attributes, size rules, button sizing and behaviors, hierarchical content organization, iconography, measures, spacing and styles for all patterns. I also came up with complementary documentation to communicate animation and timing keyframes for our micro‐interactions.
On March 27, we launched the new Alexa Skills Kit developer console (GA) across all countries where ASK is currently available (US, UK, DE, IN, JP, AU, CA, and FR) in English and Japanese. The console provides a new user interface, integrates the skill builder and Test Simulator as the default experiences for these phases of development, and makes the metrics dashboard more easily accessible. The new developer console is now the default console replacing the old developer console.
What the community is saying.
What the press is saying.
Learnings + Takeaways
UX can become very lonely when everyone is not working towards the same vision and goals, even when working alongside a collaborative team. What can become even more lonely is when product partner teams silo themselves from each other. Although UX, product and tech teams had a regular cadence of weekly stand-ups and check-ins, because the teams are broken into different product areas with different goals, it reminded me how important UX's role is when things move fast. We need to make sure to bring folks in early and often, while working together to synthesize all of the inputs and requirements, and own the design schedule, process, deliverables, and final design decisions. In cases where there may be disagreements, we need to be sure we are data driven and refrain from pivoting based on opinions. We understand that everyone in the org is customer obsessed and has great ideas, but the UX team needs to be the glue that holds the products together in a cohesive way. With that said, UX also needs to be held accountable for delivering solid designs that meet requirements, timelines, and tech feasibility. A satisfying work life is due in large part to the connections you forge with your teammates. In this project, partnerships have been invaluable by offering support, advice, and partnership that has helped me navigate the company.