Conversational UX is when the digital product embraces a more human like relationship with the user employing chat, or a dialog like set of interactions in a system, user cadence. For example, rather than filling out a form one could answer a series of questions and depending on answers provided, the user will get served relevant options, communicating key information along the way. Ideally it ends in a transaction, lead, or conversion.

The best use of this that I’ve seen is in banking and financial advising. Robo-advisors are leading the charge, companies like Morgan Stanley, Betterment, and WealthSimple are and have been at the forefront of this trend. Most of the leaders are role models in the UX community because they adhere to best practices, such as

  1. Allow the user to be in control (e.g. skip, back functions)

  2. Clear path to completion (e.g. a “take this quiz” button aka CTA)

  3. Orientation (e.g. a progress bar, summary of selections)

  4. Cognitive load (e.g. presenting one question at a time, use of a strong design system)

  5. Anticipate the user needs (e.g. tooltips, messages, field labels)

  6. Forward momentum (e.g. use of defaults and auto submits)

  7. Effort-to-benefit (e.g. personalized vitamins packs)

Another one we admire in the UX community is care/of where you build your personalized vitamin pack. It’s fun to engage with, it’s for my health, and at the end I get something for my effort and time, vitamin packs selected just for me with my name on it. A classic example of the Effort-to-benefit ratio. As a user, I should always get something in return for my effort, and this ratio should increase over time. This is a tool often used in lead gen, users become emotionally attached, the company on the other end, uses these opportunities to capture emails, get users to buy, subscribe, essentially it drives users to convert. Turbo-tax sells a service rather than a product, they pioneered what all of us designing Conversational UI experiences strive to be like. Anticipatory, transactional, and engaging.

At times Conversational UX can feel predictable and linear, but an even more personalized experience is on the horizon, it will be essential for repeat usage. For the most part these products follow best design practices, they are fun, beautifully designed, and approach their solutions with the user at the center. However, the 20% that may not follow a mold or algorithm will be left feeling frustrated and unable to accomplish the same seamless task. It’s this 20% gap that AI should fill over time and as data is collected, existing tech stack limitations don’t always allow for that 20%, we often design for the 80%, the rest is known as “edge cases”. Designing for multiple scenarios is daunting to say the least, I know because I’ve designed UX for products that had 27 variations of the home screen for an NBA team app. It took into account (fan type - 3, game day - 3, location - 3) that is 3 cubed, 27 variations of this team app. It was extremely complex, but highly personalized, thoughtful, and curated experience for team fans. This approach needs to be more automated, while keeping the humanity, these are the limitations we are embarking on and attempting to overcome with creative solutions.

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