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4-Improving the UX of conversational UIs

Design for AI

09/25/19 • 13 min

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Episode 4

We cover all the steps needed for creating a conversational UI like a chatbot or Siri, Alexa, Google voice, and Cortana. We make sure to cover making a plan so a good user experience is the top priority.

Music: The Pirate And The Dancer by Rolemusic


Hello and welcome to Design for AI, I’m Mark Bailey, Welcome to episode 4
Let’s talk conversational UI.
A lot of people think chatbot, other people think Siri, Alexa, Google Voice, or Cortana.In the current gold rush climate that is AI right now, it seems that the first step a lot of companies dip their toe in. Sounds like a good topic to cover to me. So I’ll cover the steps that need to be covered to avoid mistakes.

1st step: start with a plan.
If you want to have a conversational interface you need a plan. Think of a good plan as a stop off point on way to voice interaction that everyone says is just around the corner. More likely though is to think of the plan as a list of immediate needs, then turn that around and look at it from the users point of view. Who uses a conversational UI? People using voice interfaces right now, they don’t want to be bothered. They don’t want to be bothered to wait to talk to a live person, bothered by downloading your app, bothered by opening their computer, not even bothered to get off the couch. Your UI needs to make their life more convenient. the way to think of your plan is, how will you get what you need AND make it more convenient for the user?

The first part of the plan is how this benefits your company. What is your motivation for building the interface. Your reason will be specific to you. So I can only cover the general cases. It could be for improving media buy by understand customers, or reducing call center time. There are a lot of Industry specific choices. Conversational UIs are easier to apply to certain industries more than others. Some of the easy industries for this kind of interface. If you are running a CRM, then reduce call center times. For IP established media, the personality is already there. There are set expectations on what to expect so it makes the personality a lot easier.

The next part of coming up with a plain is deciding what to measure. Again this is very specific to your industry. Do you want to know the length of engagement? should it be higher or lower? Do you want to increase return users A lot of the time you will be getting some analytics about the user. Do you want to compare info gathered through your UI to analytics info in user profile? What can you add to the user profile? Do you want to increase the number of recommendations made to other people. No I’m not talking about Net promoter score. I’m talking about use referral codes to get real numbers. You can even measure emotions on users leaving.

Once you have your plan
The next step you need is a DMP – Data management platform, to store the info you are collecting from your app. If you do not have one, now is the time to create it. You probably want to hire a data scientist because DMPs can have a high noise level. Because really, to get any usefulness out of them you will need to be running experiments with the data. DMPs work better better when cross referencing information against each other instead of straight search. Also now is the time to try rolling your own natural language processing project, known as a NLP. Siri, Alexa, Google voice, Cortana all have their own sandboxes that are not compatible with each other. You can try developing for a couple of them to see the differences between the systems. Or a good one open source one to get started with is called Mycroft.

So now that you have a plan and a platform to move forward with, what’s next? You need to create a personality. This is going to depend heavily on your company brand, and what you are trying to accomplish. Think of what is going to be the motivation for the AI you are building. What their motivation is will affect how they answer and guide the conversation. It also depends of the situation your users will be in while having the conversation. You don’t want a mechanic in the middle of a job getting asked 100 questions to get the response they want just so they don’t need to clean off their hands . It might sound like we are designing a person, and there is an argument that goes back and forth on how human you should make your your AI. It is too much to talk about here so I will cover that in a future episode.
short story is don’t fake being a real person. Also know that personality and humanness are different. In this case we want a strong personality, so what’s motivating your AI to give the answers it gives is important. A strong personality is important because it helps to hide the holes in the AI, but not in th...


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