Beyond the interface: the relation with users gets conversational

Someone once said “Man is, by nature, a social animal”, which is the very first and most faithful consideration on the human nature, made by the Greek philosopher Aristotle more than 24 centuries ago.

Accordingly, it seems obvious considering interpersonal relationships the lifeblood of any social structure, just as much as conversations are the means to create bonds. If today we discuss a lot about the role of conversational design, it doesn’t seem something completely new. But nevertheless, underestimating its potential and modus operandi is not a wise choice.

Even design itself is a dialogue between designers and users, where we discuss their needs and desires. Discussion with our colleagues is the starting point to examine the problems of our projects in order to uncover the right solutions. That’s why conversation really begins when we involve our users in the whole process. We frame possible outputs, put them on the table, and wait to see how our interlocutors respond.
digital products in a more and more literal sense. Interaction with technology has become more sophisticated as its ability to communicate in a way that resemble the human one.
We have moved from talking to a computer to conversing with an artificial companion, where the reality doesn’t differs much from the sci-fi predictions of some decades ago.

But it has arrived. Conversation has become a user interface.

(Intercom, “Why conversational design is the future”, Medium)

The cause of this shift has to be pursued in the simplicity of everyday life, it is the core of human nature. We are naturally designed to converse with others: it’s how we share knowledge, how we recount ourselves, and how we create bonds and arise emotions. That’s why language is the ground for all of this, the reason why we message all day long with our network of relationships. Messaging has become the main medium through which we conduct our daily lives.
All this preamble to explain why there has been a arms race – in almost any service-linked context – to make the services more human, or at least with a conversational interface, so now it’s possibile to talk with digital interlocutors the same way we do with people.
Messaging apps have allowed us to reach services and their assistance by just texting them: for the first time ever it’s possible to message companies and services to find out anything about our relationship with them, from a wrong order to a change of reservation.
What might surprise us is that there is nothing new, We’ve been using them  for decades, and that the very first conversational interfaces surfaced in the 1980’s and 1990’s – much of the time in games, and as an early method of text input ( Owen Williams, “Conversational interfaces aren’t new, but they’re changing the game”, Medium)
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Which is the reason why we are seeing a boom in conversational interfaces? During the last 20 years at least, we so computers shifting from highly engineering tools to everyone’s personal companions, together with a higher and higher need of interfaces that could reflect this natural transformation.
So how can we make these solutions really effective to the users, teaching them how to obtain what they want faster? We have also to consider the fact that consumers want to interact with products in a more direct way thanks to messaging service.
In fact, according to a research commissioned by Facebook to Nielsen, the 63% of interviewed people said their messaging with businesses has increased over the past two years and the 56% would rather message than call the customer service.
That’s why companies should realize how crucial it is to focus on messaging apps and already existing means of communication. Nowadays every company is realizing how hard it is to bring users to download and really use their apps. Moreover, users are spending half of their time spent on phones in talking texting or using emails (from anExperian’s research).
Users already spend so much time in messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, so the preferred channels should be obvious.

Why not integrate your app inside these platforms

(Chris Messina, “2016 will be the year of conversational commerce)

Messaging platforms are beginning to take advantage of a wide variety of media, pushing the boundaries of the interface. It’s becoming a space where tiny applications can be built and incorporated to adopt a host of useful features, including media players, games, in-message payments, and photography: this is exactly what is happening in Asia with WeChat. While inside Google Allo’s app is possible to directly ask something to Google Assistant during a one to one chat.
It’s true, companies would still want users to find and install their apps, but messaging platforms can help to make the interaction natural and human, this is what conversational design is about. Users will be more incline to use a service as long as it doesn’t break their natural flow and journey through their daily activities and life. Don’t ask them to switch apps and come after you, if you will make them happy, they will know how to be thankful.
The ultimate step in conversational design is the vocal assistant for sure, with almost no interface and just voice. Amazon Echo or Google Home are the proof of a big interest concerning one-to-one technologies that allow people to return to personal and personalized commerce. This would made the “mass customization at scale” possible for real, where customers are treated as human beings and companies can enable an automated match of their needs.The future is certainly about conversation.
According to this new set of perspectives, what we are going to design next? How are we going to shape the conversation with the user in a more seamless, smooth and natural way? Are we going to involve experts from other fields such as linguists, semiotics academics and writers?
We have to tackle the new challenges conversational design is issuing, but there is a certainty:

The revolution is here, and it has a voice.

(Ben Basche, “The Conversational Economy – Part I: The Dawn of the Conversational Era)

Graphical user interfaces – shortly known as GUIs – are a visual way to interact with a device. This means that instead of typing specific (and often cryptic) commands in a terminal, GUIs enables users to interact with files and programs by clicking and dragging.

Conversational user interfaces – shortened in CUIs – are a spoken or written way of interacting with a device. CUIs, as we already said some lines above, aren’t completely new, but they’re becoming smarter, more natural, and  more useful.