Three VUI Trends for 2019

voice user interface trends 2019

Move over, Siri. The sales of smart home assistants, also known as voice devices, such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant sold 19.7 million units in Q3 of 2018 alone, up from 2.9 million in the first quarter of 2017. With the much-increased demand comes the need for brands and businesses to adapt to this new technology. It clearly isn’t going anywhere soon—76% of smart home assistant owners increased their use in the last year, according to Adobe Analytics. We at Wordsmithie are particularly interested in how Voice User Interfaces (VUI) can become more conversational, and in the design considerations behind programming them to converse more like…well, like the humans they are helping. So, what are the top trends to look out for in the realm of this ever-changing technology? We’ve compiled three that we think will take VUI far in 2019.

VUI devices won’t just be able to understand what you’re saying, but how and when. Developers have been spending the last half decade making sure your device can understand you. We all know what it’s like to ask Siri a routine question only to have the follow-up completely misunderstood—there’s plenty of hilarious YouTube videos that testify to VUI technologies’ lack of understanding of context. This is about to change. To foster more widespread adoption of the technology, personalized responses are a high priority.At Google, for instance, Assistant devices have been programmed as of last year to understand that unless you specify, if you ask about the weather, you’re asking about it in your immediate vicinity.

There are still big challenges ahead when it comes to programing VUI to “speak” like a human, particularly to build out the Artificial Intelligence (AI), natural language processing and machine learning abilities of the technology so that it can handle complex contextual conversations. Developers are working on it, and they’ll need User Experience (UX) programmers to work alongside them to teach these devices to speak and present information in a less robotic and more human way.

Voice search. By 2020, Juniper predicts that voice-based ad revenue could reach upwards of $19 billion as up to 50% of all search will be by voice technology. As more people adopt VUI devices, it only follows that the number of voice, rather than text-based, searches will increase. This not only means that “traditional” text-based advertising platforms, such as Google Ads, will diminish, it signifies how important it is to be on top of the organic search game, as organic search results are what VUI devices now pull from when presenting information to users. However, don’t expect organic search to dominate for long—likely, Amazon, Google and other advertisers will open services for voice-based advertising, too.

Voice devices will be connected with your other devices, so you can access apps on them. Right now, voice devices are fairly siloed—there are only a few possibilities for integration, particularly with home and lifestyle management apps such as heating, music, etc. Expect that to increase and develop in 2019. Through voice devices, consumers should expect to be able to communicate with their refrigerators, home lighting systems, cars and more. As new apps and systems are developed to manage home and lifestyle, such as the increase in smart banks, thermostats and other technologies, these players are pushed to demonstrate what makes them different. Expect many of them to showcase integration with voice devices to make management easier.

The handwriting is on the wall, for as long as this saying will be relevant (and who knows how long that will be!). Voice is the future. That might at first seem sad for a copywriting agency, but we’re excited by the opportunities presented to writers. With increased demand in VUI devices comes the increased need for UX designers to teach these devices how to present information well, “speak” with users and interact in a more human, less robotic way. We’re up for the challenge, and all the exciting developments to come.

ABOUT Khaleelah Jones

Khaleelah Jones is a digital marketing consultant who has worked with tech startups, educational institutions and non-profits on acquisition and engagement strategy, implementation and KPI modeling. When she’s not working, she can be found reading, writing, pontificating history, yoga-ing and making up verbs.

Five Graphic Design Predictions for 2019, and an Update on Last Year’s Prognostications

2019 arrives with two overreaching design trends on the horizon, seemingly at odds with each other: bold experimentation and risk-taking on the one hand, and a continued reliance on—and evolution of—historic design elements on the other. This year should be a particularly interesting one for graphic design, with one foot in the future and one foot in the past.

But first, let’s see how last year’s predictions held up.

A year ago, I felt that interactive “print” design would become increasingly common. This has turned out to be TRUE.

In my little corner of the graphic design world, the demand for interactive PDFs, e-books and online, customized interactive experiences keeps growing. Anything that engages the viewer and distinguishes itself from competitor output, whether it’s through sound, video, or interactive infographics, continues to prove it is worth.

I was pretty confident about the death of “concepts” and the rise of all that is authentic. I was right on the nose, this was TRUE.

Absolutely, this is the case. And, it’s a trend not limited to graphic design. Whether it’s in fashion, automobile design, or, the restaurant industry, brands are finding success through appearing genuine and incorporating signifiers of honesty and value. Contrast the uncertain future of the Buick brand—which strives for aspirational luxury—in the US, with Jeep—a brand that banks on authenticity—which, just had its best sales year ever.

And the graphic design trends that I think will be big in 2019?

Bold, geometric designs

All signs point to bright colors, large geometric shapes, duotones and asymmetric layouts making a big splash in the coming year. We’ve already seen inspiration taken from 1980s designs, but there’s new ground being broken as well. There’s an optimism that comes with risk-taking and using bold colors and design, and it’s refreshing to see.

Disruptive design

Two years ago, I predicted the rise of cinemagraphs (still images in which a minor and repeated animated movement occurs”) in graphic design. And while cinemagraphs didn’t quite prove to be the force that I expected them to be, they did blaze the trail for a similar trend: static disruptive design, or, any sort of deliberate, incorporated gaffe or clever visual inconsistency that catches the eye. Think of it as graphic design’s equivalent of “breaking the fourth wall.”

Serif typefaces

We’re already seeing serif typefaces nearly everywhere, not only in advertising, but also more and more in the corporate world. There’s the nod to vintage design, of course, but there’s also the simple fact that serif fonts tend to be very readable, particularly for longer assemblages of type. After years of what’s felt like nothing but sans-serif and semi-serif fonts, particularly in the corporate world, there’s no doubting the appeal of something that’s just… different.

The design grass is—and will always be—greener on the other side.

Dimensional type and hand drawn elements

Perhaps a response to the “flat design” push of recent years, but also in harmony with the illustration push we’ve witnessed recently, I believe that we’ll be seeing more complicated, illustrative, dimensional type. Look for this in logos and headlines, of course, but also in applications as seemingly counterintuitive as information design. Decorative doesn’t necessarily have to mean unclear or messy, and anything that can hold someone’s attention for a little while longer will always be considered.

The return of custom photography

Over the past couple of years, there’s been increasing consolidation in the stock photo industry, prices have shot up, and licensing has become increasingly restrictive. Clients are (finally) rediscovering the value of custom photography, a trend that I expect will continue in the new year. For my photographer friends, it’s been a long time coming.

2019 should be a compelling year for graphic design.

See you in twelve months, to see how it all plays out.

ABOUT Ryan Bahrke

One of Wordsmithie's senior designers, Ryan has more than 15 years of experience in creative direction and management, working with companies like Google, Quantcast, RSM, Navigant, Starbucks, and Ace Hotel. Ryan is the principal of Auslander Creative in Denver.

How to Avoid Writing Unintelligible, Jargon-Laced Press Releases

Here’s a good example of what not to do when writing a press release:

(Don’t worry, we’ve made this up, but there are plenty of real life examples of this out there!) Where to begin? It’s got every buzzword about the latest technology craze—which happens to be something called “big data.” But what does it mean? There are some unfamiliar words in here, but if they are in the dictionary, they shouldn’t be. Define operationalization for me. And what’s a data-rich enterprise when it’s at home? Data management at scale?

Because this is a subject (data analytics) I happen to know something about, I can semi decode it. A company is now selling a new version of software it makes that helps customers manage large amounts of data more effectively, and to easily analyze it to make better business decisions.

I could go on, but you’d yawn. And rightly so. There’s no news here. This is press release writing at its most dismal.

Let’s take a step back. What’s a press release supposed to do? At minimum, to grab the attention of journalists, and intrigue them enough to write stories about it—or at least pick up the phone or shoot an email to find out more.

There is nothing in this press release that achieves that. Where’s the hook? The interest? There is no real news—just the fact that a company reached a product development milestone. Someone on Wall Street might care, if this were a particularly important milestone for the firm. Customers waiting to upgrade to a new feature might be interested. But there’s no sign that this is the case. And you have to understand that journalists get dozens of these things every day. So you should be motivated to make your press release stand out. And one way you can do this is through language. Here are some tips:

Eliminate jargon. Put what you’re writing about in plain English. Even if you operate in an industry that uses a lot of jargon, use English that any competent businessperson would understand. And define any terms that could be considered obscure.

You’ll probably get pushback from your boss against this. You’ll probably hear, but we’re talking to our audience and we want to use their language. Trust me on this. Your audience is so jaded by the jargon that it has becoming meaningless even to them. If every firm in the data management industry is claiming that their product helps with the automation of data ingestion, governance, and self-service analytics (and they are, believe me), where’s the news? What’s fresh about this angle?

Don’t boast about your company using the same old tired phrases. Just take the opening of this release: Continuing to widen its market lead for enterprise-grade data lake management… This says very little. Widen its market lead? Does that mean it currently has the largest market share? Highest revenues? Most customers? Can it honestly claim it is pulling ahead in the market? Does it have the latest market research numbers to make this a credible claim? Probably not. If it had any of those achievements, it would (should) say them upfront, again in plain business language. Rather, focus on the company’s real Is it a small but scrappy upstart? Has it developed a truly cool new innovation? Say so—but be specific. Journalists are (rightly) suspicious of generalities.

Use short, concise sentences and active verbs. Read over the above release, and you’ll see the paragraph is really one long sentence. That’s pretty indefensible. Who has the patience to wait it out until the long-awaited period comes? Not many people. Keep the sentences short. Vary the structure. And (always) use active verbs rather than conjugations of to have and to be.

 Use examples. If possible, real-world examples. By using our latest software, Widget Inc. knows as soon as it closes its doors at 5pm how many of each of its product models have sold that day. It even knows who bought them—and how many it’s likely to sell the next day. Now you’re starting to tell a story—always a good thing in business writing. Readers will be intrigued—and read on.

I could go on…but I’m out of space. But the next time you get handed an assignment to write a press release, consider these four tips. You’ll get more journalists to bite.

ABOUT Alice LaPlante

Alice LaPlante was a Stegner Fellow and Jones Lecturer at Stanford University, and taught writing at Stanford for more than 20 years. She is the award-winning New York Times best-selling author of four novels, and wrote The Making of a Story, the best-selling textbook on writing published by W.W. Norton. Alice also is also a sought-after content writer, strategist, and story consultant for leading technology firms.

Why You Should Seriously Consider Rerunning Your Best Web Content

website content rerun

I’m gonna let you in on a little secret. It’s something I quietly learned as a 15 year veteran of online content marketing but also as a longtime TV viewer. It is this: rerunning web content (articles, infographics, videos, etc) is one of the best but lesser-known ways for you to extend the interest, reach, and ultimate reception of your online content marketing. Better yet, it requires significantly less time (if any) to reproduce.

It works like this. Using your web analytics, personal favorites, or even detailed content audit, first identify the pieces of content that have best served you or that have previously resonated with audiences. That might be your most popular blog post, a reoccurring how-to video, or an often reached for infographic.

Once you have that list, review the individual items to see if any of the copy (or images) need to be updated. If you’re already in the habit of writing good evergreen content, this shouldn’t be an issue—certainly no more than a few words here and there. If not, you’ll probably need to spend a little extra time on updating. That’s okay, however, as you’re still probably be spending less time than developing something from scratch.

Once you have that step completed, login to your content management system (i.e. WordPress, YouTube, or your social media manager), then strategically space out or group your rerun campaign in a way that best suits the timing of your rerun. For example, if you have a really strong motivational new year’s piece from a few years back, consider rerunning it this January.

When it comes to my personal blog, I try to do this several times a year. In truth, I could probably do it a whole lot more often. In the five years I’ve been regularly rerunning both web content and newsletters, not once have I encountered an angry, annoyed, or even knowing reader that was upset by my sending something they may have already seen. Chances are, with house busy life gets, they probably didn’t see the rerun the first time you ran it. And even if they did, it’s your content or your right to decide what’s worthy of a second, third, fourth, or even fifth run.

Either way, I cannot stress how helpful this strategy can be when it comes to regularly publishing good content without spending days on the task. Not long ago, I was in a pinch with my publishing schedule and knew I needed to share something with my newsletter audience but I didn’t have a lot of time. I did a quick scan of my blog, and spotted a piece on how to stay focused in a 24/7 world.

I re-read it, quickly determined that it didn’t require any updating, copy and pasted it into my newsletter software, and hit send. Within minutes I had two subscribers thank me for the advice, one of which admitted he saw it the first time I published it but still enjoyed it anyways, calling it “one of his favorites.”

Old doesn’t necessarily mean no longer valuable to today. So use rerun content to your advantage. If it’s good enough for television, it’s good enough for you.

ABOUT Blake Snow

Blake Snow contributes to fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies as a seasoned writer-for-hire. He lives in Provo, Utah with his supportive family and loyal dog and is thrilled you read this far.

When It Comes to Internet Privacy Policies, Honesty Is Not Enough

When’s the last time you read an internet privacy policy or a terms of use notice? If you and your users are like most people, the answer is likely never—despite their presence in nearly every website and app. Most people are in a hurry and know the terms are non-negotiable. So, they click the ‘agree’ button and hope for the best. But people shouldn’t have to wish they’re dealing with a decent company.

Online businesses should earn their users’ trust—and loyalty—on every single page, including the ones driven by a legal team.

“But why care about fine print if people are going to agree without reading it anyway? Seems like a win, right?” Until it isn’t. Even if users seem unconcerned up front, they may still care later on. And when they do want to read the fine print—whether it’s their first visit or the one following a negative experience—what they see should be clear and user-friendly (not to mention accurate and transparent).

Here are some best practices for online policies that give users the information they need to understand what’s happening while they interact with your site.

Give users control
The best websites offer clarity and choice, so it’s easy for users and customers to make decisions and pick what they want to view or buy. Terms and Conditions (aka T&Cs), privacy policies, and data notices are all ways to give your users the same type of control.

– Make them feel like they’re in charge when they access your website, download your app, and provide their information.

– Use it as an opportunity to help avoid potential backlash if anyone ever finds something that does seem onerous.

Offer simplicity
Giant walls of text aren’t just daunting to look at, they’re boring to read. Instead, give users a way to get in, skim the text, and get out. That way, even if they only read a portion, they’ll still be able to glean a few key elements.

– Offer users a glimpse into what’s to come by offering a table of contents that highlights the various sections of your policies.

– Provide subheads and plain English wrap-ups or summaries that allow them to click through and see the more detailed policies. And give users a way to print or download a PDF of your policies so they can more easily read them offline if they prefer.

Instill confidence in them and in you
When it comes to data, tell site visitors why you need their information, how you intend to use it, and what it’s going to help you deliver for them. Taking such a straightforward approach may give them the confidence to share even more data with you by filling out forms or accepting requests to access other data (such as their location).

– Let them decide what information they give you, then give them tools to view what you’ve collected and make changes to their data access settings.

– Reassure users that their data is protected by telling them where it is, how it’s stored, and how long you intend to store it. If you share data with third-parties, disclose this as well.

When things change, tell folks
When you change your policies, be sure to post a prominent alert that tells users where they can read the latest updates.

–  Include an explanation of policy changes at the top of your policy page so people don’t have to guess what’s different.

– Date your policy pages so users can tell when they were originally written and most recently updated.

Follow the leaders
Take a fine print hint from some of the companies and organizations that are already doing it well.

Apple’s website has a huge amount of policies, but they do a good job using subheads to make everything easier to peruse.

– The Children’s Commissioner for England advocates for children. To that end, they’ve created child-friendly policy examples to help guide online companies.

Tumblr uses callout summaries in certain sections that turn the legal mumbo jumbo into language that just about anyone can understand.

– Photo-sharing service 500px puts the fine print on the left, but includes friendlier, readable text on the right.

While policies are never going to be exciting, they can be more engaging and easily absorbed so users know what you intend to do with their data. Start empowering your users by putting your UX, design, copy, and legal teams in a room. Together, they can figure out how to develop fine print that’s good for your business and your users. Doing that may not mean everyone is going to read your policies, but it may mean that those users who do will gain enough trust in your brand to stick with you over time.

ABOUT James Scott

For more than 20 years, James has helped global brands get results with award-winning copy. As a writer and creative lead, he’s worked with clients in a broad range of industries, from technology and pharma to retail and luxury services. Though he's also an attorney, James realized early in his legal career that he preferred crafting websites and ads far more than writing legal complaints and briefs. When he’s not developing blog posts, editorial content, or ad slogans, he spends his time writing short stories and perfecting his voiceover talent.