Photo by Andres Urena on Unsplash
Photo by Andres Urena on Unsplash

VUI Design Patterns: Dialog Strategy

Jul 20, 2020 · 4 min read

Voice is a channel that can connect people, it is present in many of our daily conversations, due to its efficiency and convenience, this human interface is more used as a default interaction mode that is reframing the way we connect between us and even in these times with devices.

The user experience is how our end users naturally interact with the system we created without having read a manual, the goal should be that any actions that a user performs flow implicitly and the app responds accordingly.

Voice interfaces are primarily invisible, due to this characteristic the challenge of dealing with the context of the app, user memory, and user perception appears. To solve those obstacles, we can rely on the other senses, by using the visual validation, for instance when listing information to a user, or even design the system whereby users can interact with it through touchpad devices for a faster and consistent experience across devices.

Moreover, the user must identify the context in which the app was built, we can introduce business-speak in the dialogs, for example, if the app is related to the healthcare field use this kind of vocabulary so the user may feel connected with the system. On the other hand, it is remarkable to identify the audience and industry target, continuing with the health care example, female voices are more suitable in this context because of its ‘soothing’ tone.

Under other circumstances, when running into specific problems related to software design one way to address them is by using design patterns, which are common solutions that help us to define coupling and cohesion in our code, both lead to higher maintainability and less complexity. If we extend those patterns beyond the code and apply them to UI, we can identify clean and simple ways to address voice experience so our applications can be “easy to use”.

Since voice combines some tricky assumptions like asymmetry, invisibility, transience and one-dimensionality. It is necessary to find the best design pattern approach that can assist us to resolve those problems.

And how are we going to present the product to the user?

One approach could be the Dialog strategy which is a VUI pattern categorization. Each interaction style aims to:

  • Keep dialogs to be efficient, short, clear and structured
  • Guide and inform new users
  • Allow experienced users to quickly and directly enter the data

This strategy breaks down into four styles:

  • Form Filling: basically, implies gathering information from the user like a survey. The problem is how to structure the information.
Form Filling Style Example
  • Menu Hierarchy: this is also called system initiative, which is the virtual assistant who has control of the conversation, the goal is to guide the user to the information of interest.
Menu Hierarchy Style Example
  • Mixed Initiative: this is a mixed dialog between the virtual assistant and user, in which the dialog is often used to collect information from the user.
Mixed Initiative Style Example
  • Command and Control: this is also called user initiative, who has the active control of the conversation.
Command and Control Style Example

Designing Voice interfaces is an art, there are some VUI Design Patterns that you can use and apply for the experiences that you want to create in your application. Choosing the best approach that fits with your conversational experience can have a huge impact on your audience engagement and can have a significant influence on the success or failure of a product, so you shouldn’t underestimate it.


  1. Lyardet, F., & Schnelle, D. (2007). Consumer Voice Interface Patterns. EuroPLoP.
  2. Schnelle, D., & Lyardet, F. (2006). Voice User Interface Design Patterns. EuroPLoP.

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