Voice User Interface (VUI) Design is rapidly emerging as a new discipline in the world of user experience due to the rapid adoption of smart speakers and voice assistants. While a lot has been written about key principles of VUI Design, or how designing for voice radically differs from designing for a screen, not much has been written on the actual concepts that VUI designers can manipulate or should think about when crafting a conversational experience. Visual designers play with layers, filters, gradients, etc...But what can VUI designers play with? What does their toolbox look like?
Think about your last great conversation. What made it special? Maybe it was the other person. Or maybe it was the fact that the conversation felt natural and was something you could get lost in? Were you riding the highs and lows of whatever story you were being told, forgetting about everything and everyone else around you? Probably so, and that’s the great part about great conversation. It’s immersive.
The types of conversations you create for a voice application shouldn't be any different. Amazing conversational experiences are not only immersive, they’re also expressive. Through conversational AI, we can now move far beyond basic voice commands and make the shift toward meaningful conversations with voice assistant powered devices.
Conversational user interfaces (or CUIs) are platforms that mimic a natural human conversation, such as the voice assistant platforms Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, and Google Assistant. Until recently, computers relied on graphical user interfaces (GUIs) that require additional hardware for visuals and input such as a keyboard or touch pad. Today, CUIs provide an opportunity for the user to communicate with the computer through natural language understanding techniques based on advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms.