Humanity had been looking for beauty in everything around since the very beginning of the human era. When we evolved enough to make tools for creating beauty ourselves, the great competition for making more and more attractive things started.

When you say that the main stuff is always inside, so appearance doesn’t matter, say it one more time anyone from the design field. What do you think those people might answer? If they are honest, they would tell you that you are lying. And first of all, you are lying to yourself.

Because humanity is made in the way to stay in the constant unconscious (at least this might be relieving for you) search for beauty: in other humans and the animate world, then, inanimate world, and things that we create.

conversational-canvases-user interface

The truth is that if an idea is implemented in unattractive for an eye way, it would initially appear repellent for us, therefore, the chances of learning about it are extremely low. It’s our nature, so let’s just admit it and move forward. Because the same thing has been happening to our devices.

First and foremost for us, while picking one, is a user experience, which is totally dependent on a user interface. Designers have been racing themselves through never ending road of starving for the perfectness. But what if I told you that it’s going to fade out?

Muzli is a Chrome extension
Taken from the weekly Muz li inspiration

With arriving of new technologies that enable us to automate things and adapt them to the most natural way of communication, it seems that we hardly need any user interface. Let’s contemplate on this for a bit.

Why do we need to improve the design of things?

Maybe it’s not what we’ve gotten as a must, but as our intuitive need to make things easy and more natural to handle as if we were dealing with our natural environment, instead of talking to a machine.

Even though it might seem that we have gone too far from the natural way of communication, everything is craving for simplicity – our mind, our hands and, consequently, things we are creating. Just think about the way human communication has changed over past twenty years. Yes, most of the time we’re online, but look at how fast and easy reaching anyone on the earth has become.

Doesn’t it feel as something highly natural though not provided by our innate environment?

conversational-ui

Do you know anything about the times when human communication was measured in geography and time?

Of course, you’ve heard a lot but you would never truly know until you try to live like that because this world is totally different. (Your chances to experience this are ceasing as the number of places with no connection to the rest of the world is quickly decreasing). Think about how overwhelming and connecting an overall informational flow is now.

To learn about anything you need to make few clicks. Comparing to the times when the only sources of incoming information were TV and radio when you had quite a few options to build up in your mind more or less objective picture, now you can get as many points of view on the same problem as you want.

Everything you need is to educate yourself how to treat these lots of information properly. Finally, look at how open our world has come to be.

Do we owe it to the way technology becomes more complex or to the striving for simplicity and naturalness?

Magic is a special phone number you text to get anything you want.
Screenshot of Magic user interface

The idea of improving our user experience lies in simplification of our interactions (with people, devices, environment) by means of gradual complexification of technological tools. Loosely speaking, the easier we can make these interactions – the more time we are getting for ourselves or, as we say, for our rest time.

What do we actually do in our rest time?

We are doing the same that humans have been doing for ages. We don’t want to spend our life waiting for something or learning how to do something. Instead, we want to be able to do intuitively as many things as a possible and spare time for just walking, reading, listening to music, cooking, playing with our kids and so on.

conversational-interface-blog

You know what, it’s okay.

Because we’re the same people as we could be hundred years ago, just with a lot of information flowing through us and a ton of tools to actively change the world in our hands.

So, what is it all about?

Yes, all this technology everything is not for itself, for carrying great minds in one place, no in technology everything is done for the sake of making things naturally understandable. We needed to come to this idea to look at user interfaces from a different angle.

What would we choose if we could – great minimalistic design of a device or no design and an ability to communicate with it just like we do it with humans?

I bet you pick the latter. Because it would be way faster than pushing buttons, way easier for beginner users and more pleasurable as a result. User Interfaces that enable us to deal with them by means of natural conversation skills are called conversational UIs. Their advantages are enumerable.

For example, instead of looking up through thousands of options available on the one or another online marketplace, you may want to talk to a chatbot, who can guide through all abundant scope of information directly to what you need.

Or, let’s say, you may want to text taxi service and via few messages get the nearby car, which will drive you to the next appointment, and this is also what conversational UI serves for. As you can see the evolution of UI may result in disappearing of UI in its traditional graphical form.

conversational-ui

However, total disappearing is almost impossible as a visual part is still important for us since it helps us to make more suspended judgments. To perform analyzing in the most effective way our brain need to receive input in the both visual and audio form on the same subject.

It drives different areas of the brain to work together, and, therefore, build up a whole picture. That’s why marketing specialists work hard to pick right colors and sounds, then to place them specifically at the places where our focus may be concentrated, and, therefore, to drive attention and sales.

Many functions of GUIs are already successfully substituted by conversational features, many ones are going to be implemented – anyway, whatever easy to interact our apps may ever become, we will still need to explore existing options to stay one by one with some audio and visual content and just think about it.

Thus, instead of aiming at the total substitution of traditional GUIs by conversational ones (CUIs), we need just to wisely combine them.

Scene from “Black Mirror”, 2 season, 1 episode “Be right back”
“Black Mirror”, 2 seasons, 1 episode “Be right back”

One of the “Black Mirror”’s episodes describes the woman who has lost her boyfriend in a road accident. Her friend signed her up to the application that enables to talk to dead relatives and friends by giving access to their social media accounts and e-mail.

The woman is spending a lot of time talking to the person she loved, even though she understands that it is all was just made up from the information she fed the application. At the first sight, it seems quite futuristic, especially considering later appearing of a robot in the episode that looked just as a real man.

However, it’s more likely to happen than most of us can suggest. This episode vividly depicts how influential conversational features can appear and how irreplaceable they may become in the nearest future.

invisible-messaging-cui

 

Considering what we want CUIs to serve for, let’s look at what actually makes them good

1.Ability to understand versatile input.
2.Ability to graciously clarify when something isn’t clear.
3.Being multifunctional (People love it!).
4.Memory on the previous user inputs.
5.Flexibility to change behaviour in the flow.

 

conversational-ui

The conception of CUI is quite distorted today, due to widespread confusion with artificial intelligence, which is considered to penetrate into each technological branch. Though achievements in the field of AI can contribute significantly in creating smart interfaces, it’s not the primary condition.

Today most of the CUIs are based on the hard-coded logic with the elements of NLP, machine learning, computer vision and speech recognition. Most of them contain bot part, which makes conversation look similar to communication with a human. Requirements to CUI are already pretty high and differ a lot from those to traditional GUI. Even though the latter can be broadly substituted by CUI, the target is to enlarge user experience but not to refuse from existing UIs in favor of trends and innovations.

Growth Hacker and Sales Hacker, MVP builder, love to run technology companies.

  • Andrew Zap

    Great article!!

  • Michael Bravo

    Cool. This is definitely the best article which I read about conversational user interface)