Thirty-nine million Americans now own a smart speaker device, but the voice app ecosystem is still developing. While Alexa today has over 25,000 skills available, a number of companies haven’t yet built a skill for the platform, or offer only a very basic skill that doesn’t run that well. That’s where the startup Storyline comes in. The company is offering an easy to utilize, drag-and-drop visual interface for building Amazon Alexa skills that doesn’t require you to have knowledge of coding.
As the company describes it, they’re constructing the “Weebly for voice apps”- a reference to the drag-and-drop website building platform that’s now a popular route for non-developers to generate websites without code.
Storyline was co-founded in September 2017 by Vasili Shynkarenka( CEO) and Maksim Abramchuk( CTO ). Hailing from Belarus, the two has hitherto operate a software development bureau that built chat-based applications, including chatbots and voice apps, for their clients.
Their work resulted them to be submitted with Storyline, explains Vasili.
“We realized there was this big struggle with creating conversational apps, ” he says. “We became aware that creative people and content inventors are not really good at writing code. That was the major insight.”
The company is targeting brands, businesses and individuals who want to reach their clients- or, in the case of publishers, their readers- using a voice platform like Alexa, and later, Google Home.
The software itself is designed to be very simple, and can be used to create either a custom skill or a Flash Briefing.
For the most basic skill, it only takes five to seven minutes , notes Vasili.
To get started with Storyline, you sign up for an account, then click which type of skill you want to build- either a Flash Briefing or custom ability. You then offer some basic information like the skill’s name and speech, and it launches into a canvas where you can begin creating the skill’s conversational workflow.
Here, you’ll see a block you click on and customize by entering in your own text. This “wouldve been” first thing your voice app says when launched, like “Hello, welcome to…” followed by the app’s name, for example.
You edit this and other blocks of text in the panel on the left side of the screen, while Storyline presents a visual overview of the conversation flow on the right.
In the editing panel, you are still click on other buttons to add more voice interactions- like other questions the skill will ask, user replies, and Alexa’s reply to those.
Each of these items is connected to one of the text blocks on the main screen, as a flow chart of sorts. You can also configure how the skill must be held accountable if the user says something unexpected.
When you’re finished, you can test the ability in a browser by clicking “Play.” That style, you can hear how the skill sounds and test various user responses.