How to Create and Deliver Intelligent Information

Don’t Just Say It – Have Conversations!

Why text matters?

Technical writers have long worked on providing text for user interfaces. However, as the transition has begun from traditional graphical user interfaces to web-based applications and, more recently, to conversational user interfaces, the challenges have changed, and so too has the definition of good text.

Text is an essential element for any user interface, as the right words in the right context help users to achieve their goals and find what they are looking for. Text is an integral part of a content strategy, an approach that involves crafting, developing, managing, and publishing written and graphical content to create a consistent and satisfactory user experience (UX).

Great products can change the way people work. That’s why it is important to constantly innovate and design solutions that enable users to make their lives better and easier. Using text that not only guides the user but defines the way in which the product is consumed adds a whole new dimension to the way interfaces get designed.

Conversation Design for CUIs

CUIs in the current digital setup allow for conversations between humans and computers. This happens through what we commonly call chatbots or digital assistants.

In the context of an enterprise or a business, a CUI must have the ability to respond to questions initiated both by the user and by itself. A CUI must provide not only data for the request initiated, but also information for a suitable course of action. It must remember past conversations too, so that it can pick up from where it left off (past interactions and preferences). The simplicity of getting a service done through a regular conversation makes it easier to consume. Less training is required to use the CUI, and this is true even for inexperienced or occasional users.

Here are some basic conversation design steps that you can follow, once you decide to build a CUI to cater to your user’s needs.

Set the Goals and Define a Persona

Understand the service that your CUI needs to offer to the user and set the desired goals to construct your CUI. We build relations not just through the information we exchange with one another, but by emotions as well. A CUI must represent a personality characterized by  trust and emotion. Therefore, it is crucial to define the persona of your CUI by introducing an identity that reflects your brand. Instead of just delivering information to users in an automated format, the CUI must aim to be natural and support the service it is created to provide.

Structure and Flow

Structured conversational flow is the core to building effective and engaging conversational interfaces. Any breaks in conversation are generally very disturbing for the customer, interrupting the flow of dialogue. Your CUI must be intelligent enough to transcend these breaks to make the experience more fruitful. It should drive the conversation forward. For instance, the CUI should suggest things to help users discover additional functions or contain actionable phrases or buttons to redirect them to a place that might solve their issue. Giving the user the freedom to speak or write helps to keep the conversations more natural.

Content Matters

The foundation for every CUI is content. Content cannot be an afterthought. Keep in mind that you don’t want your users to feel like they’re talking to a machine. The key is to use friendly, inclusive language. Attaching a context to the interaction helps. This gives a more personal touch and a whole new dimension to the conversation. You must determine the various entry points to the CUI, situations based on the mood of the user, less likely questions, and so on.

Build Your Conversational Script

With the flow and content in hand, you can create chat clusters and determine (on paper) what the overall conversation is expected to look like. 

Consulting With Developers and Deciding on the Platform

Understand how you can digitize your overall script with the help of your development colleagues. Upon completing the coding of your CUI, you can decide which platform best suits your business needs, e.g., Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, WeChat, and so on. Select the platform based on your target audience and the user experience it offers.

Key Conversational Aspects and Principles

Paul Grice, a British philosopher of language, developed the Grice’s Maxims to define the essential conversational rules he observed – namely, that people should be as truthful, informative, relevant, and clear as possible when talking with each other. A UI should try to follow these inherent rules of cooperation as well:

  • Quality – the speaker conveys only truthful information
  • Quantity – the speaker provides as much information as he can
  • Relation – the speaker provides relevant information that is pertinent to the topic being discussed
  • Manner – the speaker organizes the information and avoids ambiguity and obscurity

Future of CUIs

Based on your company’s goals and products envisioned, it is crucial to have a content design and strategy that best reflects these CUI objectives. With CUIs gaining more traction in the market, there is a large scope of possibilities for designed content. As we know, emotions are the factors that influence conversation the most. The better CUIs can master human emotions, the more mature they will become in catering to varied user needs. Interpreting emotions through voice or facial expressions, or even understanding physical conditions (for example, your body temperature), are areas that will enable this advancement.

Nithya Krishnan

Nithya Krishnan

User Assistance Developer and User Experience Advocate at SAP
Nithya Krishnan is a User Assistance Developer and User Experience Advocate by profession. In her 10+ years of experience in the field of technical communications, she has authored end-user documentation artifacts across domains such as Healthcare, Mobility, Database Modeling and Management, and Enterprise On-Premise and Cloud-based Solutions. With an academic background in Information Technology, her interest lies in creating a cohesive learning environment for all roles involved in a software development process. She has presented topics in forums and conferences in India and Germany. Outside the sphere of her work, she loves to travel and believes her most fulfilling experience lies in trekking to the remote villages nestled in the mighty Himalayas.
Nithya Krishnan

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4 comments on “Don’t Just Say It – Have Conversations!”

  1. Marie-L. Flacke Reply

    Saying “Quality – the speaker conveys only truthful information” might be satisfactory for the chatbot designer, but what about the customer (end-user)? Is he happy with something truthful, but not very helpful? When turning to a chatbot, the customer probably needs some help. How do you measure his satisfaction after using the bot?

    • tekom Reply

      Dear Marie-L,

      In a way truthful is helpful. It’s better to say something wasn’t clear rather than providing irrelevant information.
      For example, if a chatbot has a fixed set of rules, I think the responses an end-user can get are anyway limited.
      However, for the chatbots that apply learning algorithms, it’s better to ask the user to be more specific, or perhaps provide related information based on the intents, and learn from there. Providing irrelevant information, is ofcourse annoying to the user.

      As for chatbot metrics, I guess this is something that analytics can take care of. Even if you provide a provision to provide feedback, there must be ways in which you can derive how often the user accesses the information provided by the bot versus just closing the session. This will help to figure out if the information being provided is helpful or not.

    • tekom Reply

      Hi,
      A CUI stands for Conversational User Interface. Other commonly known terms as digital assistants and chatbots. Any interface through which you can interact, or simply put, have conversations with constitutes to a CUI.

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