Source: Media Village

Conversation Design is a buzz word in the world of Chatbot and Voice Interaction Design. You might have wondered what this new design domain is and what is the role of a conversation designer in today’s world.

Conversation design is a design language which is based on human interactions. A good conversation design ought to be interactive, contextual and personalised. It focuses on the backend design of how a chatbot or voice assistant functions and how interactions take place between man and machine.

Aren’t we all frustrated with downloading applications on our phones for every little thing? Well, voice interactions solve that for us.

Brands are investing in voice technology to leverage the early bird opportunity and reach out to the right consumers. So, the importance of a good conversation design is to take friction out of the user journey.

The big tech players such as Amazon, Google, Apple, Samsung to name a few are investing in improving their voice assistants while text messenger players such as Whatsapp, Facebook, Slack are trying to expand the possibilities for users of their platforms.

Source: Voicebot.ai

Is ‘conversation design’ a specialist role or can any designer morph into the role of a conversation designer?

In this article, we will focus on the voice interaction medium to explain our point of view pertaining to our practices.

Many users have not progressed beyond using their voice assistants for music, weather check and news briefing. You might wonder why?

But if a voice application repeatedly fails to meet user expectations, it is not the first thing users will opt for, especially when they have the option of seamlessly working graphical user interfaces.

Imagine, you are to pay your month’s utility bill- you do it through your mobile app. It typically takes 7 to 10 steps till you achieve the goal of making the payment. Now, imagine achieving the same goal, but this time through 2 to 3 steps. When the same task is done through a conversational medium- it is less burdensome, hands free and much quicker.

Here is where a conversation designer comes into play- creating an experience such that 7 to 10 steps are cut down to 2 to 3 steps in a way that the conversation between the user and the machine is impactful, effective and goal oriented.

For all the times you have had not so great experiences with a voice assistant were times the conversation designer did not consider the end user in mind. On the other hand, for all the seamless experiences you’ve had, you might have not even noticed anything because there was nothing to complain about. The latter is where a conversation designer has worked every bit of detail to put together a conversation that is easy to use for the end user.

For an experience to feel like one whole and not broken parts of a different puzzle coming together there are some essential tips that are highly recommended while practising conversation design.

Now, you might be wondering what’s exactly expected of a conversation designer?

Let’s get on to it. Here are top 5 tips to keep in mind as you start off:

1. Explore the Opportunity:

The very starting point of building a conversation is validating if this is the right fit in the voice-first or voice-only space. Am I designing for voice only because it has become a trend or does it add value to the customer experience?

For example, if, by using a voice interface you are able to reduce 7 to 10 steps taken on a mobile app to 2 to 3 guided sentences then the use case is a good fit. Similarly, if a long list is to be displayed to the user (e.g. long food menus) or requires a user to view visual elements like color, pattern (for e.g. ordering a shirt) then voice-first might not be the answer.

Ask:

i) What value is voice user interface adding to the user journey?

ii) What is the output expected?

2. Understand Users and their context:

Once there is clarity as to why and how voice will help leverage the opportunities a certain product might offer, it is essential to understand who is going to use this product, how the product will better the lives of the user and also add value?

Consider two different users — one looking for a list of blood banks in an area and the other looking for local pizza delivery outlets.

While both the requirements can be addressed using voice user interface effectively, the user’s sentiment are different in both conversations. While the pizza delivery search conversation can be casual and funky, the search for blood banks will require a more formal tone to the conversation.

Ask:

i) Who is likely to use this and when?

ii) What is the user’s sentiment at the moment?

Various Personas

3. Start with a basic script:

Once the idea is in place, think about how users converse. Observe people, build a scenario and map out a basic conversation flow. This will be the backbone structure as you move ahead.

For example, if you are creating an application to reserve a table booking. Start putting down a conversation that comes to your head keeping your users in mind.

What is their journey? Put down a conversation a user is most likely to have with a human to book a table and adapt to make it into the base of your conversation which you can build on.

For Example,

User: I want to book a table at Little Door

Alexa: Sure, for how many?

User: 2 adults and a kid

Alexa: Got you! What time do you want to dine at Little door?

User: Umm… 8 PM?

Alexa: Your table for 3 at 8pm has been booked at the Little door.

This is what a basic conversation might look like. Mind you, it doesn’t end here. The next step would be to gauge user reactions, do users resonate with the conversation? If not, what is it that is missing?

Ask:

i) How does the user currently execute this task?

ii) How would the user communicate this task to a human?

4. Gauge user reactions:

Speak to people, test if your conversation is relevant to the way users speak, are they able to relate? Gauge not only what they are saying through words but their expressions too.

Maybe users react differently than what you expect, through the conversation. They want to book the table over the weekend and not immediately, can they?

Clear their doubts in the conversation by making additions to the basic conversation structure.

Ask:

i) Did the user stumble through the conversation?

ii) Which stage did the user deviate from the scripted conversation?

5. Error Management:

How you handle errors defines your overall experience. Anyone can create a happy path or the most obvious conversation. But the magic truly lies in handling the unhappy paths or the unexpected directions.

Errors are bound to happen occasionally, which is okay. What is not okay is not being ready for those responses. One of the most annoying things a user goes through after spending time conversing with a bot is “sorry there was an error”.

Try correcting errors in a positive tone. Maybe the user is asking for something the voice assistant isn’t able to offer, but how do you communicate that seamlessly without sounding annoying?

Let’s take the previous example again.

User: I want to book a table at Little Door

Alexa: Sure, for how many?

User: 2 adults and a kid

Alexa: Sorry, For how many?

User: I said 2 and my child

Alexa: I don’t understand. Try again later.

‘I want to book my table now, why should I try again later’ is what is probably going on in the users mind.

A better way to handle the same conversation would be:

User: I want to book a table at Little Door

Alexa: Sure, for how many?

User: 2 adults and a kid

Alexa: Sorry, For how many people? For instance, you can say “table for 5”

User: Table for 3

Alexa: Got you! What time do you want to dine at Little door?

User: Umm… 8 PM?

Alexa: You table for 3 at 8pm has been booked at the Little door.

User: I want to request for a baby high chair.

Alexa: Sorry this request cannot be accomplished at the moment, we are constantly improving and hope to serve you better.

Your table has been booked. Happy Dining.

Ask:

i) Have I attended to all the pain points of the user?

ii) Have I looked at all possible points of failures and provided a response for the same?

Conclusion:

Conversation Design is an increasingly important design discipline as brands and businesses prefer to have conversations with their consumers and employees respectively using chatbot and voice assistants.

Building conversational experiences using the classical UI/UX approach will only result in sub-optimal experiences. You need a framework that validates the opportunity and also guides you on the steps to build great conversations.

Use our framework to build sticky and effective conversational experiences and differentiate your idea or business and create greater stickiness.

What have been your lessons in building great experiences? Let me know in the comments.

Let me know how your experiences in building a conversation have been.

Please reach out here or send us an e-mail at hello@digitalripples.ai if you have any specific queries.

“Life is a conversation. Make it a good one”.

Happy designing!