The Role of UX in Conversational UI

By KLI

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In collaboration with Isabel Rubenstein, Samantha Silver, Eugene Santiago and Manuel Ramirez .

UX plays a large role in the design and creation of a conversational UI, as well as the way in which users interact with and engage with it. A product using conversational UI has no chance of being successful without taking UX into account during the design process since this will determine the type of experience that the user has. It is vital to understand the context in which the UI will be used and the human on the other end of the conversation.

Even with lots of UX research being done, there are still many limitations to conversational UI’s and it is important to be able to recognize them.Through recognizing the various limitations that exist when it comes to conversational UI, it helps indicate the areas in which this can still be improved.

Some of the limitations of conversational UI are:

  • People can speak a lot faster than they can type, listen slower than they can read and talk quicker than they can listen. This can impact the way in which users engage with conversational UI.
  • Currently, need to use activation phrase to give a command, cannot speak as organically as a human conversation.
  • There are many ways to give a command, and many ways this can be interpreted by the UI.
  • Accents can be difficult to understand on certain devices, difficult to distinguish between different voices in the same room.
  • People prefer talking to People, versus talking to Robots- some of the interactions with conversational UI can feel “unnatural”
  • Current CUI is “dumb”, meaning that most cannot ‘correct’ unknown commands intuitively.
  • Low Security and privacy concerns in regards to conversational UIs “listening” in when users are not interacting with them, or ability for others to hack into systems.
This is where the role of UX comes into play. UX aims to understand the various scenarios in which conversational UI will and can be used as well as anticipating the types of user challenges they may encounter when interacting with the conversational UI device. The role of UX is also to acknowledge the various types of limitations that currently exist; meaning that these limitations can actually help guide the field of user experience research in terms of areas to improve on when creating a conversational UI experience and considering the present limitations. Through recognizing the limitations that are currently present, UX can, therefore, assist in creating new and innovative ways to assess these solutions.

Now knowing these limitations, here are some things to consider when testing conversational UIs and the role of UX moving forward:
  • Make sure to accommodate the flow of conversation - should flow like a basic of human conversation, syntax, taxonomies, colloquial expressions
  • Understand turn taking and the basics dynamics of human conversation in order to implement these into the design process
  • Ability to understand different voices, tones, and inflections when engaging with conversational UI
  • When testing, it is important to remember that conversational UIs may involve multi-functional UIs and capabilities or very specific app designs or may involve hybrid Interfaces - a combo of GUIs and screen-based command-line interfaces:
    • UIs may include text, voice commands, & utilize photos and images
    • Designs may feature issuing voice or text commands that produce outputs whereby users can take additional steps
    • And there is room for expansion for integration with other devices, apps, and services.

In conclusion, conversational UI is still far from being perfect. As UXers, it is our role to help create the solutions and ideas that can help make conversational UI as close to perfect as it can be. UX has always been about being ahead of the curve and problem solving, and that is especially applicable when it comes to conversational UI and how we can help improve it going forward. This means that it is the UXs role to identify the potential limitations and create solutions to them in order to create the best possible user experience.


READ MORE: What Is Conversational UI?, Conversational UIs and Hybrid Interfaces, Designing a Conversational UI Experience: Converstion Basics, Why Conversational UI is So Successful, Current State of Conversational UI

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