Conversation Design: The Emerging Design Discipline

Here at Klüg, we take designing experiences seriously.

Part of that has to do with setting design principles that will help us achieve the goal of providing solutions to real problems.

Conversation design is the practice of taking human-human conversations and applying its principles to human-machine conversations to implement solutions that are effective (helps accomplish a task) and efficient (gets a task done efficiently and intuitively).

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As it is part of user experience, the first and foremost stakeholder for designing these conversations is the user. For each of our clients, we define the user problem, possible solutions, a prototype of the chosen solution and implement the solution to learn from it and improve over time.

Required Skillsets

The backgrounds and field experience of conversation designers vary, but the most common ones are: linguistics, journalism, copywriting and screenwriting. These job functions center around the human language, and involve both research and implementation of communication.

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Transitioning to designing conversations rather than writing articles or scripts, however, requires a shift in writing style: one that focuses on the natural flow of human-human conversations while accounting for the realities of how machines understand human inputs.

Why writing for human-machine is different

Take this example:

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Let’s say a friend approaches you holding the above two types of shoes, and asks: Which shoe do you like better?

What would you say?

It would likely be something like this:


However, this is how you are currently required to respond if a computer program had asked you, not your friend:

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This is where conversation designers come in. They take the most natural way an interaction could happen, figure out what kind of technology will be integrated to make the interaction useful, then write a new interaction that accounts for the embedded technology.

What matters in a conversation with users

Throughout this process, we must remember that a user’s experience with the chatbot must be designed with the entire conversation in mind, not single points of the interaction.

To summarize:

Conversations ≠ programmed responses

Conversations ≠ Q& A sessions

Conversations ≠ button navigation

Conversations ≠ chance to “brain dump” bot’s capabilities (Keep it simple, stupid).

If you would like to see how we partner with companies to create a solution that aligns with your workflow, check out our development process here that starts off with defining business objectives.