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Creating a Webby Award winning voice app

Webby Statue Mod 1 Paige Harkness
by Paige Harkness

It’s 2am here in Australia and we’ve just found out WE WON A WEBBY!

So, allow us to tap into this midnight rush of inspiration to share with you how the project came together and what made it a winner…

A worthy cause – An exhibition to “save sight”.

There are nearly half a million Australians who are blind or have low vision. Alkira was founded to enable people to navigate the internet using only their voice, so when the Queensland Eye Institute Foundation (QEIF) approached us with their latest fundraising idea we were keen to help wherever we could. 

QEIF hatched the concept with Publicis Australia to match 9 people who had lost their sight, with 9 influential artists to paint their last seen memory.

The result was 9 stunning paintings, but even more moving were the memories behind them.

The obvious application for voice would be to deliver those memories in an instant, hands/eyes free and accessible way, enabling people to access the heartfelt backstories without looking away from the exhibition.

Collaboration – The right people in the right places

Idea recognised, we now needed a strong audio partner to capture the sounds for us to sew together using voice as the golden thread.

We are lucky enough to work closely with Australia’s leading entertainment and media company Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) who (as fate would have it) were also working to support this worthy cause. 

Sound design – The breath of life

SCA worked closely with the vision-impaired subjects of the paintings as well as the artists, to get inside the “last seen” moments captured in paint and recreate them using a vivid soundscape. From the sound of waves lapping the shores, seagulls in the distance and groups of people chattering, to the hum of a crowd and the performance of a lifetime; SCA developed a highly personalised audio experience to grab the user by the ear and transport them straight into the last seen moments. Now, even without being able to view the paintings the stories could be felt and re-lived.

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Conversation design – Putting the human experience first

When it came to designing the conversation we knew our users would have varying levels of sight and technical ability. Some would be using voice for the first time. 

The experience needed to be warm, friendly and intuitive. So we created “Raymond”, our helpful QEIF volunteer turned art guide to lead visitors through the exhibition and share the moving experiences of the painting’s subjects. Instead of using a synthetic voice, SCA helped us find a fantastic voice actor to play Raymond and recorded every prompt and error message to ensure the experience was as seamless as possible. 

User Experience – Understanding expectations

It was important users could either listen to the stories in order, or jump from one to another using natural language. So, “tell me about this painting by the beach” or “What about Oscar’s story?” would all result in a positive user experience. 

We also wanted to make sure users could learn more about the artist as well as the cause. Unfortunately both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa make it difficult to donate to a charity they haven’t pre-approved using voice; however we were able to email additional information about the foundation and pass those email addresses back to QEIF on which to follow-up.

The Result – Everyone’s a winner

We had loads of positive feedback, great PR, thousands of users and QEIF raised an impressive amount at auction for the cause. To top it all off, we won a Webby.

Bang your own drum! – You need to be in to win  

Our top piece of advice if you’re keen to win a Webby? Enter!

Thankfully our partners at SCA have a fabulous creative team and put together a slick case study video in record time, which we’re sure made the difference for our entry.

One of the challenges when entering the Webby’s was knowing which category to select. There are many to choose from with some very high calibre entrants, so where to enter a voice experience which acts as an art enhancer? We decided Apps Mobile and Voice, General Voice, Education would be the most relevant and likely to deliver a result. 

Even though we were up against the likes of The Harvard Business Review and Encyclopedia Britannica, we won and can now claim to be part of the internet elite.

Try it out for yourself!

If you’d like to experience Alkira’s voice app for yourself just ask Google or Alexa to “Launch Last Seen Exhibition”

To view the paintings visit https://lastseen.com.au/

For the Webby case study video check out https://vimeo.com/380422048/8be083be8c

OR to get in touch feel free to send us an email or connect via Linkedin. 



About the author

Paige Harlness Headshot 1
Paige Harkness
Partnerships and Integration at

Voice strategy, conversation design, developing people-centric voice experiences

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