Part 3 in the “UX Design for CIOs” series
Until a few years ago, using voice commands to interact with applications wasn’t very common. Some businesses operated interactive voice response (IVR) systems to streamline call center operations, or to offer services outside business hours. The experience wasn’t always good. Cars started to feature voice control, like entering a destination in the satnav system or dialing a contact without taking your hands off the wheel. And some might have tried speech-to-text recognition software for writing emails or documents. In short, voice interfaces haven’t had their breakthrough moment yet.
But that is about to change! The benefits of using a voice interface compared to a GUI are obvious:
- It’s faster. The average human can type 40 words per minute but speak 150 words in the same time.
- It’s easier. No need to operate a device like a smartphone, keyboard, or mouse. YHands-free interaction lets you keep doing what you need to do.
- It’s cooler. At least for now, while voice interfaces are not so ubiquitous yet. Won’t you admit experiencing a little moment of joy when the system you’re talking to actually understands you?
The introduction of Apple’s Siri (in 2011), and Amazon’s Alexa (in 2014) have accelerated the adoption of voice as a computing interface by consumers. Machine learning has greatly improved speech recognition accuracy (to over 90%), and reduced latency i.e. the time it takes the system to respond (to less than 2 seconds). Search platforms like Google and Baidu have seen a tremendous increase in voice queries during the last couple of years.
Where the average two-year-old was able to swipe an iPad, the same is happening now with Apple Siri, Google Home, and Amazon Alexa, which young children can easily command to play their favorite music or turn on the lights. And anyone with children at home will acknowledge that Generation Z has no reservations in talking to a machine – something that still makes many older people uncomfortable!
From “mobile-first” to “conversational UI-first”
All these trends have great impact on UX design. Do you remember recommending specific mobile apps to your friends a couple of years ago, thrilled as you were with yet another masterpiece of design? No one is doing that anymore. Mobile apps are a commodity; you simply expect every company or service to have one. The average user might have 30–40 apps installed but uses only a handful daily. And what’s worse, people no longer want to go through the burden of finding yet another app, downloading it, logging in, creating a profile, and learning how to use it. They rather prefer apps they already use and know, which remember their preferences and past interactions. This is where conversational user interfaces and chatbots come into play.
The growing use of voice, the rise of mobile messaging applications, and today’s powerful artificial intelligence are all signs of a platform paradigm shift happening right now. As Gartner and others have pointed out, roughly every decade a new platform paradigm emerges that works its way through the industry. As a result, human-to-machine interaction is also changing.
According to Gartner, conversational AI platforms (CAPs) will be the next big paradigm shift in information technology. They predict that in 2020, the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse. Conversational systems are clearly a technology trend: Accenture’s technology vision foresees that in seven years’ time most interfaces will not have a screen anymore but will be integrated into daily tasks. Artificial intelligence will become a digital spokesperson for companies.
All of this means that we will see a shift from “mobile-first” to “conversational UI-first” in application design. Sooner rather than later, companies need to design for an improved customer experience by offering intelligent assistants and chatbots.
In my next blog on Thursday, Nov. 23, we’ll see how both users and companies are benefiting.
Find out more
If you’d like to learn more about conversational UIs and chatbots in general, I recommend subscribing to Chatbots Magazine on Medium. If you’d like to know more about SAP’s digital assistant, you can follow the blog posts about SAP CoPilot on Experience.sap.com. You can also follow me on Twitter and reach out to me if you’re interested in co-innovating with us, or joining our next planned customer engagement initiative.
And for more on taking advantage of trends that are more than fads, see How Following UX Design Trends Can Feel Like Surfing.