Amazon’s Alexa is the most popular virtual assistant of all, even if Siri and Google have their fans. One of the Alexa platform’s strengths is its impressive flexibility, a feature enabled largely by its openness to third-party developers.
Simple apps that run on Alexa are termed “skills” and can be added by anyone with a bit of technical know-how. Putting a piece of information, a game, or a podcast on amazon alexa is easy enough that even non-developers have done so quite successfully.
Follow the five steps outlined below and you can create your own Alexa skill and make it available to everyone. Amazon’s official documentation for Alexa contains plenty of additional information about each of these subjects.
- Plan Ahead
It is possible to design and implement an Alexa skill off the cuff, but planning tends to pay off. Properly planned Alexa skills serve carefully chosen purposes and function in ways that users find intuitive.
The best way to get started will be to think about how your contemplated skill will stand out from the many that are already available. Skills that duplicate the functionality of existing favorites tend to get lost in the shuffle, as might be expected.
Having a unique value proposition in mind will rule such problems out and make the design work that follows easier. You should also think about how the process of using a new skill will play out, mostly for the same reasons.
Having an understanding of how Alexa fans habitually use the system will always make this easier. Therefore, it can pay for newcomers to spend some time interacting with Alexa before getting started.
- Register Your Skill in Amazon’s Developer Console
The next step is largely a formality and should take only a few minutes. Before a new Alexa skill can be designed and launched, it needs to be created in the official Developer Console.
- Build an Interaction Model
At the heart of every Alexa skill is a voice-based interaction model. Much like with the visual user interfaces many developers are familiar with, the best of these always feel intuitive to use.
Most freshly minted Alexa developers find that the Developer Console makes it easy enough to design interaction models. More advanced, experienced skill designers can just as well write JSON documents that detail their creations.
- Write the Required Code
Some Alexa skills consist of little more than canned responses to predetermined questions. Many others require at least a bit of code-based logic to deliver the results users expect.
As might be anticipated, developers are expected to use the Amazon Web Services (AWS) platform to host any code they write. Standalone AWS Lambda functions can be used to run small, independent snippets of code that correspond to particular Alexa queries.
- Get Certified
Although the platform is fairly open, publishing a skill on Alexa requires obtaining certification first. The Developer Console includes tests that will need to be run before Amazon will consider okaying a new skill.
Once certification has been granted, an Alexa skill becomes ready for anyone to use. Most developers find that it pays to put some effort into marketing their Alexa-based creations to make sure others will discover them.
The five simple steps above can be followed to turn a concept into a fully functional Alexa skill. Alexa’s popularity ensures that developers with interesting, creative ideas always meet with success when they make their own skills available to the public.