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UI Design, UX Design, Web

Superpower : conversational UX

by Backelite Italia

Or: how conversational UI could really change our way to manage, represent and obtain information

Lately, we’ve been hearing a lot about the Conversational Interfaces. According to the predictions of Gartner in Hypecycle, since 2016 until now we went from a very high excitement – also due to some important releases in the market – to the disappointment of some of technical limitations that belong to the field of conversational interfaces in general.

Despite all the idea that the majority of the interfaces in the future could be conversational ones was never abandoned. Moreover recently we started talking again of chat bots and voice assistances, sometimes with the support of a series of new researches (you can check the latest Capgemini’s research) and data (v. Gartner slope of enlightenment).

But, beyond data and trends, what is the real power of Conversational Interfaces?

Actually, the idea of an interface able to converse existed since long time ago in many technological fields.

Over the past years many scholars theorized the “database principle” (Stefan Sonvilla-Weiss, Mashup Cultures, 2010). According to this principle in an age overloaded of data, the new models of information transmission and utilisation have to follow the dynamics of the archives. In this logic the user plays a fundamental active role in searching the information by entering a query of research. Strictly related to this concept, we started developing the idea of a smart archive, able to order information according to logic paths and to suggest to the users how to behave to obtain the information that they need (machine learning and user profiling).

In the videogame world, where the practice of game design is strongly linked to the issues of storytelling, the idea of the database principle has been adopted and implemented with the development of complex conversational interfaces in order to be able to experiment new forms of storytelling (v. The Talos Principle, Event [0], Fallout, https://www.wired.com/2016/09/event0-review/; https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2016/09/14/event0-review/ articles in English).

Thanks to this type of organization and transmission of contents, game designers had the possibility to create complex and multi-layered narrative worlds.

One of the most interesting “powers” of the conversational interfaces is precisely this: the possibility of managing a vast array of information and transmit it to the users according to their specific objectives.

 It is a “power” that could bring visible advantages to all those services that offers a very specific function delivered by the management of a database such as booking platforms for instance. A chatbot could also merge together more platforms and very specific functions if they’re all addressed to a specific more complex objective:  to make an example, in the case the aim of the user was not only to “book a room” but more in general to “go on holiday”, a conversational UI potentially will be able to cover all the needs related to a specific objective in the same timeframe (transportation, accommodation, activities…)

Another example could be the one of the public administrations (article in Italian), a field that has a constant need of simplification, and that often presents to the user complex processes and paths to follow in order  to achieve a specific objective. In this case a good artificial intelligence could be able to analyze the requests of the user and provide a good quick service to the citizens. In the future it could easily become a strategic asset for the government management.

To sum up what said above: the cases where the conversational interfaces are the most effective are the ones in which the service offers a very specific function, and that’s why for someone the applications of the future will be entirely conversational. A good practice to design these interfaces could be to put as a starting point the database itself in order to define the precise needs and goals of the users.