Talk over text: Conversational interface design and usability

Preston So
50 minutes
UX / Design

With the ongoing explosion of conversational interfaces in the form of chatbots and voice assistants, a concomitant revolution is happening in content strategy, design, information architecture, and user experience for conversational experiences.

Conversational content throws several wrenches in the web-based content paradigms that have been essential to our current understanding of content, how to design for it, and how to manage it. Just like the wholesale transformation of content from print to web, we are witnessing a similar transition where marketers are increasingly freeing content from the confines of the website.

But conversational content is inherently different from web-based content and comes with distinct concerns. For instance, conversational content tends toward single, contained utterances rather than the longform prose found on websites. It is organized differently too, with unidirectional guided flows favored over reference-rich links. From a usability and accessibility standpoint, voice assistants and chatbots pave new opportunities but present puzzling obstacles.

In this session, we'll talk about how to handle conversational content, with the help of real case studies in the wild: how to write, model, manage, and organize it; how to design conversational interfaces when your tools are aural, not visual; how to perform usability tests on conversational content; and how to ensure your information architecture works for both web and conversational cases. We'll also talk about content reusability when you don't have the luxury to distinguish two separate channels for content.

Here's what we'll cover:

* A brief history of zero user interfaces
* Web-based versus conversational content
* Design: The aural and verbal canvas
* Information architecture: Decision flows, not navbars
* Content strategy: Constructing conversational content
* Content differentiation vs. content harmonization
* The curious case of Ask GeorgiaGov
* Content auditing: Preparing for an omnichannel content strategy
* Handling calls to action and hyperlinks
* User experience: Dialogues, not dialogs
* Guided decision flows vs. traditional visual interfaces
* Aural usability testing with retrospective probing
* Epilogue: Conversational content in the omnichannel context

This session is intended for content strategists, digital leaders, editorial teams, marketing organizations, architects, designers, and developers who are interested in delivering conversational experiences and the implications of conversational content on issues of design, content strategy, information architecture, and user experience.