We thought it would be a good idea to share with you a Q&A session we had with one of our customers about the thinking process that goes with giving a web site a voice. We are honoured to share the following discussion we had with Michael Clevestig, Senior Manager Online Marketing of SITA who is the world’s leading specialist in air transport communication and IT solutions. SITA delivers and manages business solutions for airline, airport, GDS, government and other customers over the world’s most extensive network, which forms the communications backbone of the global air transport industry. Q : How did you come up with the idea of speech-enabling your web site ? A : When we re-did our web site in 2008, one of the main objectives was to provide different access channels for the various constituencies that visit our web site. We see our web site as a multi-faceted and dynamic media and wanted to go beyond the text version only. At the same time, we were looking for a way to introduce some of these new channels without having to engange in costly production costs. When we heard about ReadSpeaker, we thought this was a great way to emulate a speaking version based from our already existing text content. Q : When you say « already existing text content » what did you have in mind ? A : That is a good question ! We initially thought that ReadSpeaker provided pre-recorded messages that would need periodic updates. That is where we discovered that the ReadSpeaker application converted on-the-fly our text into speech. The process is entirely dynamic ; the ReadSpeaker application parses the html code on our web pages, converts it into text and then file streams the mp3 back to the user. Q : How much effort did it take your Internet team to implement ReadSpeaker ? A : Since ReadSpeaker is a web-based software, our implication was limited to the initial implementation of ReadSpeaker’s html based code in our content management system (CMS). The ReadSpeaker web-based software comes with a number of customisation features such as start and stop tags to determine which part of our pages sould be read, personnalisable and accessible flash players, custom owned dictionnaries where we could provide ReadSpeaker with certain abreviations that needed specific pronunciation. Once the ReadSpeaker software was implemented – and the support we got from the ReadSpeaker team during this phase was A-class – our part of the job was done. The advantage thereafter of using the web-based ReadSpeaker product is that we are always getting the best and latest version of the software and don’t have to periodically update it ourselves. Q : Your web site doesn’t seem to be aimed at end users who have reading disabilities so why did you take the decision to add ReadSpeaker to it ? A : Our web site is mostly used by professionals in the air transport industry which, in their vast majority, do not encounter reading problems. However, we feel that adding an audio dimension to our text content brings our site to the next level by introducing greater usability for all, irrespective of any disability. We see the listen function on our web site to be as natural as the print and email buttons we provide. Many of our visitors are busy professionals that operate in multi-task contexts and to be able to listen to our articles while doing something else has a value in itself. Q : Would you recommend ReadSpeaker to the air transport industry ? A : Definitely ! We see ReadSpeaker as a very useful tool that can be used for different types of web site visitors who have various needs. It is easy to implement and the team behind the product are experts in speech technologies.