Do Your Homework Before Deciding to Speech-enable
But before constructing a voice interface to your Web site, you should do some sleuthing to determine whether speech will be useful for your applications:
Telephone some voice Web sites, and listen to their voice user interfaces. Here are some telephone numbers of interesting voice applications you can call for free.
1-888-NUANCE-8 or 1-650-847-7656
Try your hand at developing a simple voice interface by using one of these online VoiceXML tools.
Hey Anita FreeSpeech
VoiceGenie Developer Workshop
Or download one of these software development kits and develop a voice interface on your own PC.
IBM WebSphere Voice Server SDK
Microsoft has released a beta version of the Speech Application Language Tags (SALT) (www.saltforum.org) that you can download and experiment with.
Determine whether a voice interface will actually improve relationships with your customers and improve sales. There are a variety of techniques to test the effect of voice user interfaces. With one popular technique, called a Wizard of Oz experiment, the developer pretends to speak to the caller on behalf of the computer, and records the caller's responses. Not only is this an effective tool for designing dialogs, but post surveys also give indications of what callers think and feel about speaking and listening to a computer. Other techniques include demonstrating a voice user interface to a focus group and listening to their comments.
Get your feet wet by prototyping a noncritical application and actually measure its impact on selected users.
After you have finished your investigation, you will be ready to make an informed decision about enabling your Web site.
For additional suggestions on how to improve the quality and experience of using telephony applications, see the author's book, VoiceXML: An Introduction to Building Speech Applications (Prentice Hall, 2002, ISBN: 0130092622).