As a UI Designer, Should I Be Worried About the Chatbot Paradigm?

Written on 2016-05-19 • conversation • Read in: 1′25″

This conversation pops up in many forms lately: chatbots, conversational UI, artificial intelligence, NoUI, . . . Will they put designers out of a job?

Probably not.

Take for example the chatbot or so-called conversational UI paradigm. It has been around since the early days of computing. And even before that it existed in other forms – think of the scripted questions/answers during a support call, or confession in church 😉.

Fast forward to today, mix in the artificial intelligence rage and you can see why it is an interesting narrative and a great marketing tool. The idea of a personal shopping assistant in the form of a bot is attractive to some. Maybe we should make news conversational. Like bad pop music, it seems novel but is not new. While a tiny portion of chat UI’s may stick, I expect the hype to be over soon.

Many interfaces are conversational in nature – think of the conversation you have when you withdraw cash. Or buy a bus or train ticket. It would be impractical if all those conversations would solidify in the form of a chat bot UI, which is the exact opposite of a good tool. But here is the good news: it does mean that you already have experience designing conversations. The chatbot paradigm is another paradigm you can leverage, like the hundreds of others you already know.

A valuable tool – like a pencil – takes away the friction of back-and-forth conversation as much as possible, and brings you as close to direct manipulation as possible. A valuable tool elevates the human experience. So long as you can design an interface that allows you to do that, you still have a job – and a great one at that.

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