In This Chapter:
With millions of Web sites out there on the Internet, you're going to have to think up some pretty innovative ways for your Web site to be noteworthy. And let's face it, without a Web site that stands out, users won't stick around and spend much time, or even come back. This chapter gives you a powerful tool that will make your Web site more interesting and easier to use. It's a class that easily lets you speech-enable your Web applications, and it's built on the Microsoft Agent technology.
You're looking for more than just a pretty Web site there are more important things than just luring people in. A lot of people just plain have trouble reading. And if your Web applications are speech enabled, users won't have to do too much reading to benefit from the contents. Or how about users who might be seriously visually impaired or blind? By speech-enabling your Web site, even these people can benefit from the contents.
You also must have seen the racks and racks of cassette tapes and CDs at the bookstores on which books have been recorded into an audio format. The reason this is so popular is that so many people prefer to listen to something rather than to read it. I myself prefer listening in many cases because I spend so much time reading; it's a real break to have something read to me. And studies have shown that, in many cases, comprehension increases when the content of a Web site is read to the user.
Now you don't have to read the entire Web site to a user. That would probably be overkill and might drive the users crazy. But selecting the most important text for instructions and reading that part to users will go far in terms of their enjoyment, enhanced understanding, and benefit from the Web application.
One more very powerful argument for using these Microsoft Agent technologies in your Web site is that they can provide not only speech, but also animation and interactivity. With them, your Web site visitors can get a guided tour of your site's products and services. They can ask questions and get answers. They can point to the rise in sales for your company's chart, which will be much more powerful than a plain graph.
The technology is actually built on ActiveX. Two ActiveX controls provide the Microsoft Agent character, animation, and speech capabilities. These controls are not server-side components, but they are embedded into the HTML and are invoked just as any other ActiveX controls would be in an HTML page.