Storyline, a popular platform for the creation of Amazon Alexa Skills, has been updated with a new drag and drop UI that handles almost all coding-related tasks and makes it easy to create just about any Skill you can dream up. The interface follows a flow using blocks and steps. A block is a short piece of one-way or two-way conversation between a user and Alexa, and a step is an instruction that leads to the next block. Essentially, the UI allows creators to write up a given block, and then steps to reach a series of other blocks further down the line, until the end of the Skill interaction.
A good example that integrates most of the beginner principles of Storyline's new user interface may be something like a choose your own adventure story. The first block is the introduction to the story, where the reader may pick a protagonist. This leads to one of two blocks, one for each possible protagonist. From there, Alexa will read up until the first user choice, then ask the user to pick. The user's choice will determine which block the story goes to next. There is an option for an unknown choice, like if Alexa doesn't understand somebody's speech or they say something outside of the expected responses, so developers could use that to ask a user to stick to the story. Creators can zoom in and out of the storyboard, and move, edit, or delete blocks at any time, ensuring that a Skill is perfect before it's sent out.
There are steps for text read by Alexa, reader replies, unexpected replies, and even playing short bits of pre-recorded audio. On top of the basic functions, there are also special steps that can use a JSON API request to pull and integrate data from an outside source, so long as the Skill has proper privileges to do so and can reach that data. A creator could, for example, find a folder called "writing" in a user's Google Drive, and use a different ending block with an extra few sentences encouraging the reader to create their own stories. If you're interested in using Storyline to start creating your own Alexa Skills, check out the embedded YouTube video below, and head through the source link for a Medium post from the Storyline team with more details on how to use the UI, as well as how to get your hands on a copy of Storyline and start building Skills.