Conversational user experience (UX) design has recently become a central part of discussions throughout the tech community. Web developers and designers are working to create technology that can interact with humans, experimenting with many types of conversational systems to follow in the footsteps of Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri. As conversational UX design advances and develops, the entire technological sphere is shifting.
Conversational UX Design Defined
Many companies are spending large amounts of time and effort perfecting their UX designs. If users have to wait a long time for pages to load, get confused trying to navigate the website, or find the design unappealing in any way, they are more likely to leave and seek out a competitor.
Conversational UX design is a way to smooth out the interactions between humans and technology. It involves direct conversations with AI personalities, (Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, etc.), voice-enabled apps, and various other robotics. The purpose is to make technological interactions easier and feel more natural to humans.
Where We Are Now
Though it is only now gaining widespread attention, conversational UX has been around for some years. Apple’s Siri is one of the original conversational UX systems. Users of Apple products can easily access Siri and speak to her, asking questions or even requesting jokes. Platforms such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, and Microsoft’s Cortana also emerged at a similar time.
Conversational UX is currently focused around convenience. Conversational systems are located in areas where you may need to multi-task. You may have Alexa in your kitchen so you can make dinner while simultaneously changing the music, or you may use Siri in your car so you can keep your hands on the wheel while checking the weather for the week. Conversational UX intends to make things easier.
Some people are apprehensive about talking to a device. They feel it is unnatural posing a question to a piece of technology and having the technology answer back as if it were a human. Some users find Apple’s Siri awkward, for example, because you have to say “Siri” before asking for anything. Siri’s software uses the name as a prompt for it to kick in. This can feel uncomfortable because, in a normal conversation with a human, you would not say the person’s name before each statement.
Many experts believe part of the apprehension comes from people’s innate distrust of technology. Technology develops exceptionally quickly, and more and more parts of daily life are becoming automated. Because technology is continually changing society, some people feel unnerved. Technology is also potent, often capable of doing a job better than a human. This seemingly endless power can make people feel suspicious and hesitant to accept it into their lives.
The goal of conversational UX is to make a piece of technology seem entirely human. If people can forget they are talking to technology, they are less likely to be nervous about using it. The current state of conversational UX is that it is still apparent you are talking to a robot when interacting with AI personalities.
The Future of Conversational UX
Experts across the tech world agree conversational UX is quickly developing and will grow in significance. Conversational systems are now mainly located in areas where it is convenient to be able to control things without needing your hands. In the future, experts predict conversational UX will be everywhere – even in areas where you may not necessarily need to use voice control.
Conversational systems will also become based off learning systems. Currently, conversational UX requires a designer because it is not a full learning system. Designers need to determine how the system should respond to each question or request, so they create a way to classify what the user said so the automated system can construct the correct response.
Automated systems will shift away from needing someone to identify how they should respond. They will eventually be able to determine a response independent of humans. Instead of designers, conversational systems will require people who fulfil roles more similar to teachers or coaches.
Methods for Improving Conversational UX
To reach the future goal of conversational UX, experts are working on establishing a set of guidelines to teach people in the tech world how to design optimal conversational systems. Part of developing the automated systems involves researching and analysing all the different ways people communicate in a variety of speech patterns, languages, and settings. Experts are putting them into a library to help future conversational UX designers create thorough and effective conversational systems.
The difficulty is that the main place to find research on conversation styles is in writing that was created for social scientists, sociologists, linguists, and other similar researchers. The studies were not written for technology developers. To establish their library of conversation patterns, they must translate the research into information that is relevant for UX designers.
Creating a universal set of guidelines and standards for UX design may take a while. Humans have an innate ability to adjust their speech patterns to communicate with different people. Giving technology the same ability, however, is difficult. Most people cannot explain how we know how to converse with each other, which makes it hard to identify what UX specialists need to do to give technology the capabilities to use a universal standard for conversation.
What Designers Consider When Developing Conversational UX
As with most considerations for UX in a web design, the first thing most designers consider when developing conversational UX is what the user needs. Part of determining needs depends on the details surrounding the specific user. The conversation system takes into account the circumstances of the person before responding.
Conversational UX designers also look at whether the technology has a face. An example of a conversational system with a face would be Siri, because you are talking at a screen. If the system has a face, the designer needs to determine what should appear on the screen during the conversation. For example, if the user is asking about purchasing some shirts online, the face could show an image of the shirts, the price, or a variety of other things. The designer needs to think about what the user is viewing, as well as hearing, in the response. Luckily, the human brain has the ability to multi-task. You can listen to something while simultaneously looking at an image of something else, so designers do not need to show an image that matches directly with the verbal response of the system.
For prototypes, designers may create an app or website with voice on top of the animation and ask people to interact with it. They can take note of factors such as common questions and how they are phrased, necessary volume as well as the amount of information the system offers.
Technology: The Wave of the Future
There are still some hesitations about AI personalities and robotics, but it is clear people will be more likely to adapt to these new additions to society. Experts have predicted AI will soon be everywhere. Conversational systems are the wave of the future and will become a central part of daily life around the country. If you accept and adopt this new technology into your life, you may find yourself growing fond of the improvements and advancements it can provide.
(Lead image: Depositphotos)
Want to learn more?
If you’d like to become an expert in UX Design, Design Thinking, UI Design, or another related design topic, then consider to take an online UX course from the Interaction Design Foundation. For example, Design Thinking, Become a UX Designer from Scratch, Conducting Usability Testing or User Research – Methods and Best Practices. Good luck on your learning journey!