Skip to main content

Choose theme:

blog of developer & bookworm benjamin read

The Conversational User Interface

This phrase "the conversational interface" has been bouncing around in my brain since I attended Wordcamp London, I can't remember who mentioned it as being one of the things to watch out for in the coming year or years, but it has really struck me a something that I think could be significant and important.

Like you've I've worked on many projects over the years. Some have been great, some have been awfully painful. But the ones that feel like they've been the most successful in particular are the ones that start a conversation.

I don't mean just the way the animations rock, or the cadence of the prose. The projects that I like the best seem to initiate a conversation, and keep that conversation going. It doesn't end. It just builds on what's gone before it.

###Moving Past the Introduction

A product can have a great introduction: the home page is really neat. It sees the users' vision and responds, segmenting the audience and taking them to places that they were surprised were there.

But that's where the conversation can end too.

The longer a conversation continues the more chance you have to convert the visitor to a customer, an advocate, or whatever it is you're trying to achieve.

This extends beyond the copy, and goes right into the heart of how a project expresses itself.

It's the colours and the feelings those colours generate in people. Its the interactions that bring that extra bit of sweetness, like a smart quip or a clever statement that makes someone think.

###How We Get There
A conversational, or discursive, UI, says things you can't. It conveys the personality of those involved in the project and breathes life into the project itself, so it can stand on it's own merit as a reflection of those who founded it.

Therefore I think conversational interfaces require more collaboration and crossover than we've seen before. They're everybody's collective responsibility.

Do we understand the culture of the organisation we've been asked to represent? Do we animate in the way they are animated (I'm not talking about motion capture here by the way, just the abstract representation of their style!) — do we interpret the content of the project in a way that supports and reinforces the product or service or goal they're trying to achieve?

Eventually, I don't think slapping a transition or an ease-in on something is going to make the difference. Animation is going to become a level playing field we're all bound to see the validity of putting those sparkles into a project.

Instead, they should be tailored, unified, and representative. They've got to identify with users, hook them, invite them to explore further. They've got to be their companion along their journey with a project, support them as they take action, and linger in their memories when they're gone, beckoning to them to return someday.

"The Web is Agreement", says Jeremy Keith. If that's so, then the interface is the conversation that leads to that agreement.

Discursive, conversational UI is the way we get to express ourselves more fully in that greater conversation.