Conversation: The new UI for everything
Turns out, we are just scratching the surface
Language is the most powerful, useful, and effective communication technology ever, period.
Traditionally, Interactions between businesses, service providers and users were always through conversation. The local kirana store built recurring customers based on his small talk skills , negotiation and bargaining were almost an art to itself and the ability to offer personalized recommendations went a long way for fashion retailers as brand building exercises through grapevine in the local community.
And then the Internet happened.
Suddenly the very dynamics of user business relationship changed dramatically, It bought with it the advantage of stupendous scale and the GUI (graphical user interface) enabled a self-serve like model that would quickly become templates for websites and then eventually mobile apps.
The GUI was amazing and revolutionary for its time but it wasn’t perfect-
1)People have always had to adapt to interfaces — to learn the rules on how to operate with them.
2)The focus on user attention and time spend on websites have created bloated attention economy that runs on keeping the user engaged at all costs
The problem becomes more apparent if we think about why we use digital products in the first place. As users, we use products to solve specific problems.
And when we solve problems, we want to focus on the problem itself, not the interface. But interfaces make the process of problem-solving harder because they introduce a cognitive load on top of the problems.
The closer we get to a natural human interface, the more comfortable we will be solving problems. And the human natural interface is spoken language. It’s one of the first interfaces we ever came up with. And it has always been our favorite kind of interface.
We love efficiency, speed, and convenience. As technologies have continued to give us those, we have adapted and embraced them. Conversational design promises even more. As Chris Messina, lead experience developer for Uber said a year ago:
“…just because everyone has a screen in their pocket doesn’t imply that they should be forced to look at it to interact with your service. Conversational commerce is about delivering convenience, personalization, and decision support while people are on the go, with only partial attention to spare. I expect more service providers will shift in this direction, becoming more subtle in how they integrate into our lives.”
Do we like texting, chatting and using conversational interfaces?
Eight trillion. That’s the number of text messages sent every year. For the record, that’s 23 billion texts sent every day. Or almost 16 million per minute.
Conversation UI design needs to be a top priority for any company that offers products or services to consumers. From the local grocery store, to the national clothing retailer, to the healthcare provider, chatbots, loaded with information and enhanced by AI, can be providing the convenience and speed that consumers now demand.
Accuracy improvements in the past two years have dwarfed all improvements over the past thirty years combined.
Jeff Bezos, About Conversational UIs
So if bots and AIs are things that we talk to instead of “use,” what exactly are we talking to? This metaphor is as fundamental to a successful UX as the notion of a “desktop” is to the graphical user interface. Is the agent on the other end of a conversational UI meant to be like HAL from 2001 or Samantha from Her — a disembodied-but-humanoid, quasi-omniscient, personalized god in a box? Or is it supposed to be more like R2-D2, or an extra-smart Roomba — dogged and resourceful within its limited domain, but nothing more? These are some profound questions that dodge us daily as we experiment and build the initial blocks of conversational UI with persona based chatbots using our proprietary platform.
We’re certain that chat UI will put more emphasis on actual problem solving and help businesses build relationships and deeper understanding of their customer needs with context and personalisation.
Most importantly, Chat UI trumps everything else when it comes to universality and ease of access and that is the key to long term impact in developing countries who are leapfrogging into the digital revolution as we speak.
Creating engaging chatbots with a genuinely fun personalities is a challenge that designers and developers are battling to solve around the world but the irony refuses to escape us, We spoke to a designer at a leading A.I chatbot company recently who told us the first question he asked anyone before letting them join the team was, ‘Do you speak human? Show me on chat’