Responsible UX writing for machine learning
What you can learn from my experience at Booking.com
It’s been almost a year since my product team started working with machine learning models. We’re using them to show the most relevant rooms to people looking for a place to stay.
On websites loaded with different choices and offers, prediction models may be a handy way to help people quickly make sense of lots of options, zeroing in on what’s best for them.
Machine learning models also get called prediction algorithms, and although there’s a difference between these two, they essentially tell you the probability of something being relevant for a person browsing the website.
I found myself in the midst of having to understand what a model actually does to know what copy to write. It made me read and think about craft and ethics-related aspects of UX writing and machine learning in order to keep writing responsibly (i.e. accurately, honestly and transparently).
Before you trust me on anything, please take this article with a grain of salt. Although some predictions of a model can hit the bullseye, others might be quite off since we try to predict something with incomplete knowledge.
Sometimes UX copy and design can be perfect but the model has imperfect prediction. This could be quite damaging for your brand’s reputation as you could be wholeheartedly recommending something that might not be good for people. The other way around is true as well. Pairing a perfect model with inaccurate copy and design may result in a completely ignored recommendation.
There is no universal formula applicable to all products using machine learning, even within the same company. Still, I believe it is good to exchange our UX writing experiences for machine learning. We should start a conversation that will be an important one for the future of our profession. As technologies like machine learning evolve, we have to evolve too — particularly in how responsible our approach to copywriting for machine learning is. Feel free to join the conversation and share your views and experiences in the comments.