There were some big announcements at an Amazon event this week — most of them focused on new gadgets, namely the Echo Spot. Similar to the Echo Dot, it has 4 microphone arrays, but also a small screen that looks like a clock.

Hidden in the big event where we all met the Spot is one easy to miss detail that will soon be very hard to ignore, particularly for voice designers. That detail is the introduction of Amazon Alexa “Routines.” With the introduction of Routines, Alexa apps  just got the equivalent of the smartphone homescreen.

The smartphone homescreen of voice design

Just as homescreens are the key to retention for mobile apps (how many of us are still using Apple’s mail app?), Amazon Routines will soon be moving the same needle for voice apps.

"Alexa, Good Morning!" The Amazon Routine in action.
With routines, Alexa’s quest to literally become a part of a user’s daily life has just begun. Routines are going to address one of the biggest issues facing Amazon skill store — discovery — and they will drive a ton of value for skill creators.

So what is an Amazon Routine?

Sarah Perez at Techcrunch explains.

“Designed primarily for those interested in automating their smart home with simpler commands, routines will allow Alexa users the ability to trigger multiple actions at the same time – like turning off the lights, locking the door, and turning off the television – with a command like, “Alexa, good night.”

Landing a mobile app on a smartphone homescreen drives repeat usage and makes an app a part of a user’s daily routine. In terms of mobile app strategy, if you can get on the homescreen, your app’s usage skyrockets. And now, in terms of voice, if you can get added within a routine, you will have repeat usage built in.

Routines can come in many combinations, including smart home triggers like thermostats and smart lights, and skills like the Flash Briefing. Consumer-facing routines will launch sometime in October, according to Amazon. And when Routines support third-party Skills, there will be a serious landgrab to be the first.

The apps that dominate this landgrab will have to be worthy of routine use, but more significantly, they will have to be intuitive and natural, with a user flow and user experience that can stand out in what’s going to be a very large crowd. The advent of a homescreen for voice apps is here, and the best designed apps will be the ones that stand out.


Mark Webster

The Founder and CEO of Sayspring. Both a Designer/Developer. Follow me on Twitter at @markcwebster.

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