Design

Designing Websites for Voice Search

0 min read

We’ve talked about the prevalence of voice search before. It’s something that really has the potential to change some big things in the web design and development world. A PWC report found that 71% of respondents would rather use voice search than physically type their queries. So, it’s big numbers.

When we spoke about it last time, it was about how you can write your content with voice search in mind. Now we’re thinking slightly Bigger Picture (pun intended) – what about designing your entire website around voice search?

Traditionally, web design has been exclusively visual. We design and build websites for users who read and digest information with their eyes, who type out their queries into visible search boxes. But with the huge rise in smart speaker technology, it’s going to pay to be prepared to design for voice users as well.

Typed vs Voice Searches

Typed searches and voice searches will offer you different search engine results. This is probably something you’ve experienced yourself with Alexa or Siri and can be one of the frustrations for users and website owners. It can also be a great opportunity to catapult yourself ahead of your competitors in the rankings. This frustration-opportunity dichotomy is heightened by the fact that voice searchers on mobile will only get one search result. Often referred to ironically as “position zero”. You can see why so many people are keen to grab that spot.

With this in mind, it makes sense to make voice searchers a priority during the design process of your website. So, how do we go about that?

Prioritise Your Content

One of the easiest things you can do in the design process is to think about how your content is laid out. When trying to optimise for voice search you should be placing the most important information near the top. It’s not a huge jump to assume that somebody who is using voice search to find information isn’t going to want to spend ages scrolling for your phone number or opening times.

Phone numbers aren’t the only thing to consider though. If you’re not a brick and mortar business, you won’t be overly concerned with opening times either. Other important types of content you can prioritise could be information on any current sales or how much you have to spend for free delivery, information on how they can make appointments or bookings, or even just featured products.

Think About Your User

Thinking about your user journey is something that should be done before you design any website, and especially so when optimising for voice search. Users that find you via search will be interacting with your website in significantly different ways. As a simple exercise, how easy do you think it would be to navigate your website without looking at it, with someone describing it to you? This should start to put you in the shoes of voice users.

You will often find that the user journeys of voice searchers will start with a question. Optimising the content and page structures on your website can help take advantage of this. If you want more help with writing great content for voice search, check out our blog on that very topic. In terms of page structure, try basing your sitemap and headlines around some of the most common questions you think may come up. Voice assistants are far more likely to match your content to the query then.

Load Times

Ensuring your site loads quickly is a no-brainer. Page load times have such a huge impact on your search rankings that it is simply unforgivable to devote any time or effort to this. The impact is heightened by voice searches, which are typically made on mobile and by people in a hurry. Mobile load speed will be more important to you than desktop load times so you could take advantage of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) technology to further your advantage.

Remember that the competition for “position zero” will be fierce, but the potential payoffs could be huge.

Stay Ahead of the Curve

Smart voice assistants, voice-enabled in-car computers and voice searches on smartphones will only become more common. Even in writing that sentence it feels strange to think that voice search on smartphones feels like ancient technology now. The troubling thing is how few websites have optimised to capitalise on this enormous source of valuable web traffic.

The encouraging thing is that it does not require a complete direction change in your design approach. The technology that supports voice search is improving every day and is clever in finding content that matches queries. You can help it along through with some subtle changes. Make sure you include voice searchers in your user journey process, thinking about the situations in which they might use voice and the sort of content they might be aiming to find. As always, but even more so here, get your technical t’s crossed and i’s dotted. Make sure mobile pages load lightning fast, we recommend you check out AMP, and look into schema.org markup as well.

If you want to design and build a website that really takes advantage of the huge potential in voice search, let’s have a chat.