Conversational Interfaces are cool, but where is this platform heading?

You’ve probably read about this neat platform already, used an app with it integrated, or might be wondering what I’m even talking about. Well, let me first to give you an introduction for the people who are unfamiliar with what the term “Conversational Interfaces” means. (Those of you that have already done a multitude of research on the subject can skip ahead I guess, but just know it’ll hurt my feelings…)

Have you ever used the application Slack before (if not, you should definitely look into it because it’s pretty awesome)? Slack is a messaging app, made for companies and teams, that has bots and other apps built in that you can chat with to help on different tasks. No, the bots aren’t real people (hence, the name “bot”) but they, along with the app integrations, can help you accomplish different tasks, such as time tracking, productivity tracking, file management, or even help with finding a hotel for your next business meeting using some simple commands. These are all done through the messaging system, making it simple, convenient, and very helpful. Companies can use Slack in some instances for internal communications. Alternatively, companies can also use chat applications like Facebook Messenger and integrate it with their own app, allowing their users to interact with them through a chat platform. Getting it?

To take it a step further, here is an example of a another conversational interface that some may have heard of or you might even be using it now – its called Operator. This fun app is built around a community of experts that help you find and buy the exact products you’re looking for, all through the use of simple messaging. Users can either choose to download the app for free, or it can be used through Facebook Messenger. You can message people that are experts in fields like home goods, electronics, fashion and much more.

Are you looking for a very specific chair for your porch? If you live in Buffalo, New York like we do here at Newbird, you’ll only be able to use it for about three months out of the year, but the interior design expert from Operator will be able to help you find that chair! They’ll suggest different options for you based on your preferences, and you can purchase one right through the chat — hello extra convenience! Oh, did I mention that all the suggestions from the experts are products from credible merchants all around the world? Yep! Check out these photos below that I got off of Operator’s website that show you what it’s like to shop with them.

Gift for GF      Sneakers

Would Newbird ever use conversational UI for clients?

At this point, you might be thinking that this is such a cool thing but how can it fit in with my company? Does it even apply to my type of business? The answer is that it might not. For example, it’s not going to be a Band-Aid for a business that isn’t attracting a lot of people to their site, that’s a whole different fix that starts at the core of a site. For most, this is more of an extension of your business, a tool used to break down barriers with your customers and clients for their questions, concerns, and feedback.

If we were going to get involved in this field here at Newbird, there are a few types of client projects that could work with this type of platform. We mainly work with two different types of websites, flyer sites that are built on WordPress, and eCommerce sites that are usually built on Magento or use WooCommerce. Now for a website that is mostly informational, a site that is mostly talking at the client and explaining their business, we could incorporate a messaging system that allows the client to speak back to the company. This could engage the client further with the business.

Now, for a more eCommerce based website that is heavy with products, it could also be beneficial for the customers to be able to message the company. They could easily ask questions about products or orders, etc. The user could get an answer back within a couple of minutes, rather than sending an email and waiting a couple of hours or even days.

We could even take that a step further and say we decided to build an app around their business — we could take the conversational interface to a whole new level with how the customer interacts with the products. Need a repeat order or the product you bought last month? You can just send a simple message through chat, “Reorder the purple Ray-Bans,” and the person/bot replies back within a minute with, “Your order number is 1234 for the purple Ray-Bans and will be shipped tomorrow”. How unbelievably simple for someone who already knows what they’re going to buy on that app and all they did was type out 5 words. No extra hassle and all of the details are already taken care of.

So reader, to answer your question in the sub head, it would all depend on the client and how it can be integrated.

What does this mean for the future of design?! Should I be scared?

Don’t worry designers we still need you! But it looks like things are going to change, quite a bit. I mentioned before that designers and developers are going to have to uproot their old ways of doing things and start designing for chat platforms. It will be more of, “how do we design our chat-bot differently and make it more engaging with the user” and “how can we make our bot more friendly and seem like a real person”. We’re going to be designing conversation, as well as other graphical elements to bind the two together.

The designer will be figuring out how to display items in the chat— will there be a filter-like area with color and frame options for the customer who is looking for glasses? Or, will the bot send the customer several options based on his or her preferences? What type of icons work for this app? Those types of design decisions will have be taken into consideration and designers will have to find unique ways to make their application stand out.

There is also the utilization of your voice. There are many apps that allow you to simply speak into them and the bot takes care of all of the details for you, without having to lift a finger. There already are ways to integrate the two, voice and chat, to enhance user experience. Or perhaps we design different ways of interaction for each, separately.

So, with all of this information about this conversational UI where is a website’s place in the future? Are they going to be non-existent? Don’t get too nervous about not being able to find a web design job 15 years from now. You can’t forget that websites will still play an important role for businesses. Websites allow the user to be completely immersed with the company. It (hopefully) gives the user valuable information to help them make a decision about if they’re the right fit for the user or have something valuable to offer them. This will certainly still be applicable 15 years from now, and even longer, but how they will be used might be something completely different…

Now, I’m going to throw something crazy out there. Ready? Perhaps, in the future websites and conversational interfaces and even virtual reality will all be inter-connected. Just hear me out! Maybe in the next 25 years you’ll be wearing those goofy virtual reality glasses (but by this time they will have already designed something better) and you’ll be able to FULLY immerse yourself in someone’s website or even in their office/store. Imagine going into your favorite store, and interacting with sales reps that are virtual assistants who can talk to you instead of messaging you. MIND BLOWN. And the best part is, you’re able to do all of it while sitting on your comfy couch at home under a million blankets with your pajamas on, drinking hot chocolate…do I have to remind you that we’re in Buffalo where it snows, a lot?

Alright, let’s wrap it up here… It’s not hard to see that there are so many questions that are left unanswered, new design roads to pave, and new roadblocks to hurdle, as we start to dive deeper into the conversational integration era. This platform of Conversational Interfaces is still growing and improving every day. It’s a really exciting time for more investigation into this platform and what will eventually come out of it. The way we interact with our devices will be completely different years from now and I’m eager to see what we can come up with!

 

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