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Conversational UI

1 May 2017

We usually associate Conversational UI to a system's visual and graphic aspects. While this is true, there are other properties which can improve user experience. Conversational UI is a user interface which simulates a conversation with an actual person. Instead of clicking on menus and icons or typing a keyword in a search engine, users can express themselves freely in order to find the required data. This can be done either by "chatting" with the virtual representative (or "chatbot"), engaging in an oral conversation with virtual help such as Siri, or even sending an IM to the business via designated app.

This way, the system studies the user instead of the other way around. By using complex algorithms and AI systems, conversational UI translates the information (whether transmitted orally or textually) into data items or commands stated by the system.

An increasing number of organizations, from Google and Facebook to your local vender, understand the potential of Conversational UI, whether in its simpler Chatbot form which includes only some basic scenarios or in its AI-based form which is more complex and elaborate. The more advanced versions identify audio/text commands and relates to additional properties such as user location in order to present an answer adapted to his/her needs (e.g. Google voice-search).

Conversational UI provides businesses an innovative way to communicate with their customers. If I can text my spouse "please turn on the boiler", why shouldn't I be able to text the café "2 espressos, please"? This was indeed done by Starbucks: the Starbucks application enables customers to order via text or voice message. The customers receive a message when their orders are ready so that waiting lines are spared.

Nevertheless, in regards to business aspects the western world is years behind. In China, an application titled WeChat which began as an IM app enables users to perform numerous activities via text or voice messages including hailing a cab, purchasing clothing, making appointments and paying bills. 10 million businesses offer their services via this app to 870 million Chinese users.

Conversational UI offers a substantial improvement to UX and data accessibility and in turn can contribute to customer service and sales. It is not unreasonable to assume that this tool will be developed (in conjunction with the development of the field of AI) and utilized in other fields. We may possibly be able to use it in organizations in order to provide our workers a friendly User Experience.

Let's talk about it.

UI/Ux designer
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