Conversational UX is a user experience that combines chat, voice or any other natural language-based technology to mimic a human conversation. It doesn’t matter whether the conversation between machine and human is via a voice-enabled product or application, such as Siri or Alexa or through a text-based conversational interface such as a chatbot or instant messaging platform. The larger point is the experience feels like a natural conversation with its ebbs and flows and even occasionally, a sense of empathy, according to Brian Bagdasarian, the head of conversational growth strategy at HubSpot

“A great conversational UX will feel like a natural chat between two real people, even if one of those parties is a bot,” . “It should feel personal — like you are engaging with a close friend or someone you trust,” said Rob Maille, head of strategy and customer experience and co-founder of CommerceCX.

To clarify, voice alone does not equal conversational UX, said Gessica Tortolano, head instructor who teaches Immersive UX UI at Wyncode Academy. “It is not so much the act of conversing but emulating the act of holding a bi-directional conversation — it could be via voice, a chatbot, a quizlet, or sequence of Q&A.” For example, she said, 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, for the vendor that is, it ends in a transaction, lead, or conversion.

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Best Practices of Conversational UX

But make no mistake, conversational UX is based around the user being in control of the conversation — and per best practices in this space, the system should be designed with that in mind, with such functions as “skip” or “back”, Tortolano continued. Other best practices include the following items.

1. A clear path to completion (e.g. a “take this quiz” button or some other call-to-action)

2. A strong sense of orientation, such as a progress bar or summary of selections.

3. Does not require a strong cognitive loadmeaning the system presents one question at a time or otherwise makes it easy to respond to or use.

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4. Anticipation of the user needs offering such features as tooltips, messages or field labels.

5. Encouragement of forward momentum with the use of defaults and auto submits.

6. A strong effort-to-benefit. To illustrate Tortolano provides the example of a personalized vitamin pack service such as care/of. “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.” It’s a classic example of the effort-to-benefit ratio, she said.

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Called Different Names

Conversational UX is known by different names depending on the industry in which it is being used. In private banking, for example, it is referred to as a robo-advisor, said Audelia Boker, VP of Marketing at Glassbox. “These conversational UX have enabled banks to launch new regulated financial advice offerings to a wider market than ever before.”

But whatever the name or industry the best of the best offerings have the same thing in common, they are designed by people who are familiar with the psychology of conversations, how they are structured, how humans interact and how these conversations take place, said Andy Vitale,UX Director at SunTrust Bank. At the same time, these designers know that the quality of the experience is limited to how well the technology can receive and process the data, the quality of the data itself and the way the interactions are designed, he said.

“Pairing this knowledge with empathy for the people who will have conversations with technology, as well as understanding their needs, goals, fears and behaviors, and leveraging the design process to build, test and iterate will result in a more delightful conversational UX,” he said.