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Computers and Technology


How UX Designers can improve customer interactions with Conversational UIs.

At a certain point, it became clear that the success of a product depended on its design. The reaction to this statement is not always positive. But there’s no denying that many products owe their success to aesthetics and ergonomics more than anything else. That doesn’t mean, however, that interfaces are supposed to be beautiful.

For example, think about the early days of Google Maps. There were no fancy maps or stunning graphics; instead it was a simple interface with one big button for switching between maps and directions. The real story is only revealed when you take into account the map data provided by competitor MapQuest. Then, Google Maps seemed like a real step into the future. Because it did not require knowledge about map data nor did it require manual downloads to work properly. The interface was completely transparent and you didn’t have to worry about how things worked under the hood.

Of course, today’s product developers are facing challenges beyond navigation systems. They are exploring newer and newer possibilities to bring more functionality into the lives of everyday people. As an increasing number of technologies converge. New concepts are created that allow us to connect with each other in ways never before possible.

The technology is not what’s different anymore;

it’s how we use it that really makes the difference. The experience is what counts now, and it’s what defines a successful product.

Experience design is a broad field, covering all aspects of a software system, from the initial understanding of business goals to how customers interact with an application or website. In other words, experience designers have to understand technology and its limitations while working on ways to make this interaction seem effortless for users.

The future belongs to those who understand how to design experiences, not just interfaces. Conversations are the next wave of human-machine interaction, and if UX designers do not step up to take part in this transformation, they will be left behind.

Conversational UIs

Earlier this year Facebook announced that it was experimenting with its own virtual assistant, M. Available to 1% of US users who were asked to install an iOS app on their devices, the assistant was supposed to help people get things done, like buying gifts or ordering food.

There are many other examples that show how tech companies are pushing into the territory of human-machine communication, which means that UX designers need to know what Conversational UIs are and how to create successful experiences with them.

What is a Conversational UI?

Conversation as UI means that users interact with an interface through conversations: asking questions, receiving answers and expecting the system to carry out commands based on those exchanges. As it turns out, people can form mental models of an interface more quickly when it’s presented to them via conversation.

Conversational UIs are powered by intelligent systems that act as assistants or maybe even virtual friends, responding to user queries through text chats. The conversational style of interaction is not new in itself , but the current race towards simplifying technology has made it relevant again.

There are many benefits that come with conversational UIs. They are easier to access, offer more control and can be used anywhere thanks to their reach on mobile devices. Also, as chats become an increasingly popular mode of communication, people will feel more comfortable talking to machines as well.

What’s more, the ubiquity of messaging interfaces has allowed for faster adoption of those experiences. In the beginning, they might be chatbots on Facebook Messenger, but soon enough we will see them everywhere.

To create a successful experience with a Conversational UI you should follow some general rules:

Focus on task success. Users don’t want to have long conversations with their devices and expect tasks to be carried out as smoothly as possible. Design your experience around the user needs and business goals and you will be on a good path.

Be helpful and engaging. People like working with humans. So try to think of your chatbot as an assistant that helps them achieve their tasks. The more they enjoy it, the more likely they are to use your product or service.

Design for conversation. Don’t think of your chatbot as an interface with buttons and menus. Instead, try to create a system that allows users to form mental models about how it works and what they can expect from it. This might be hard in the beginning when you add more features but will pay off in the long run.

Immerse yourself into the experience. Just like with any UI. Users want to be immersed into an environment that makes them feel comfortable and enhances their productivity.

Conversational UIs are here to stay. So UX designers should take some time to learn how to create successful experiences with them. To do this you can start by reading some articles on the topic and joining the Designing Conversational Interfaces course on Springboard. Hopefully we will see more of those systems in the future, and UX designers will be ready to create better experiences for their users.


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