Voice User Interfaces (VUI) and consumer products such as Amazon Echo and Google Home are rapidly gaining popularity and are already being used as media devices in the home; by some estimates, 6.5 million voice-first devices shipped in 2016 and we’ve seen significant growth in their use as a player of BBC content.

As broadcasters and creators of media software, we are interested in the potential of these devices for both the delivery of our existing content and the creation of new media experiences native to these devices.

However, the user interface shift they represent – from screen to voice - means that many existing processes and patterns for user experience (UX) are no longer relevant or need significant rethinking to be useful in this domain of interface design.

The relative novelty of this class of interface means that there is little existing literature describing UX for VUI. This paper describes a methodology we are developing to address this lack of literature, followed by some design principles we have discovered during our work on prototype VUIs.


In BBC R&D, we have been running a project called “Talking with Machines” which aims to understand how to design and build software and experiences for VUI.

The project has two strands. Firstly, a practical strand which builds working software in order to understand the dominant platforms and their ecosystems. Secondly, a design research strand which aims to devise a user experience language, set of design patterns and general approach to creating voice interfaces independent of any particular platform or device.

The Methodology section of this paper describes a practical prototyping method we have been developing for VUI, which is currently on its second iteration.

Download the full technical paper below