5 things conversation designers should be thinking about in 2024

If humans and AI will be living and working together, then they’ll need to learn to communicate with each other. That’s where conversation designers come in.

Conversation designers are copywriters that make chatbots and voice assistants more helpful, natural, and persuasive. They create trust between people and AI, and they ensure companies can truly unlock the potential of conversational AI.

Looking at current technological developments in the market today, it’s clear that conversation design is going to be an important job going forward. So let’s discuss some of the things you need to be thinking about before you get started.

Here are 5 points we’ll explore:

  1. Understand the balance between tech, psychology, and language
  2. Design a persona for trust
  3. Have a human-centric design process
  4. Use role-play and sample dialogue
  5. Keep it simple with edge cases

Let’s dive in!

1. Understand the balance between technology, psychology, and language

Here’s the thing, if we are going to have robots and humans communicate with each other, then two things stand out. The robot has an artificial brain and the human has a human brain.

These brains are completely different from one another. They both have their capabilities and limitations, and they both have different triggers that make them function properly.

The artificial brain needs structured data like intent, variables, and entities. The human brain needs empathy, guidance, and encouragement to function. Language is the thing that makes them both perform.

As conversation designers, we therefore need to understand technology, psychology, and language. Only then can we ensure that we leverage conversational AI and create better experiences for our users — and that is ultimately the goal.

2. Design a persona for trust

Communicating with something artificial is a weird experience if you think about it. If it’s not designed properly, it can get creepy very quickly. That obviously isn’t what we want.

A way to deal with this is to design a bot persona. This is the personality behind your conversational experience. It’s pretty much where the words of your chatbot or voice experience come from.

You want to develop a solid persona that allows for consistent vocabulary that resonates with your users and the journey they are on. The persona isn’t simply your brand, it’s a fictional character in relation to your brand and your user.

Designing a good persona allows for consistent language and that ensures likability, consistency, and trust. There is an entire design process in the Conversational Academy dedicated to this, so we won’t go in too deep in this blog post.

3. Have a human-centric design process

Human centricity is at the heart of a good conversational experience. Currently, most bots are developed by engineers and they don’t have the best track record when it comes to social skills.

The experiences they create often lack human centricity. There is little empathy which causes the user to feel lost and unimportant. It increases the odds of a user dropping out of the experience.

That’s why we want to focus on a human-centric design process. We want to figure out a user’s anxieties, motivations, and context. We want to really get to the bottom of this and use it to develop an experience where users feel understood. This builds trust and allows you to take more control of the experience.

The user will let you guide him when he feels understood. This allows for a higher completion rate and a better experience altogether.

The Robocopy Conversation Design Process offers a few simple canvasses that ensure human centricity is at the heart of the conversation. Go through the steps in a structured way, and your bot is destined to be natural and empathic.

4. Use role-play and sample dialogue

During the conversation design process, sample dialogue and role-play is the trick to making it natural. Once you have filled in the canvas from point 3, you should have a clear understanding of your user’s needs, and a good picture of your bot’s capabilities and limitations.

That means it’s time for some role-play. We are going to use improvisational theater to figure out what the most natural flow of the conversation is.

One person will play the user. And one person will play your chatbot or voice assistant. They sit back to back from each other and pretty much have the conversation. This allows them – with a couple of iterations – to get to the most natural conversation.

It’s important that they can’t see each other. This forces them to only use words to explain things. It gets rid of all the visual communication that people use when conversing.

5. Keep it simple with edge cases

It’s very tempting to want to have an answer for everything. However, this is only good for getting a headache. You want to make sure that you don’t waste too much time trying to solve situations that hardly ever occur. That’s why you want to focus on the happy flow.

The Pareto principle applies. Go 80/20 when designing conversations.

In terms of conversation design, it means that 80% of your users will go through 20% of the conversations. These people will have regular situations without too much complexity or exceptions. You want to make sure you give them your love and attention and don’t spend too much time on the edge cases.

Before you know it, you are going to be spending 80% of your time on 20% of your users in all those weird exceptions. You want to avoid that. In complex situations, it’s better to hand over to an agent or forward them to a website for more information.

For example, we can easily make a nice conversation for a couple putting in a reservation at a restaurant. But it quickly becomes challenging when the reservation is for 9 people, two of which have gluten allergies and 4 are in a wheelchair. Sure, we welcome them in our restaurant but we don’t have to design a conversation for this exception. It’s better to advise them to give us a call so that we can set up their perfect table and ensure they have a great dining experience.

Wrapping up

There are obviously many more things you need to learn before getting started with conversation design. These are just some fundamental concepts for you to think about before starting your next project.

If you want to learn more, you can always reach out to the Conversational Academy. Shoot us an email, enroll in a course, or join the community to discuss with like-minded people.

Happy designing!

Further reading

How creating chatbots can be a slam dunk

Woebot: Case Study in Conversation Design for Mental Health Products

What is Conversation Design?

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