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From Conversational UI to... Conversational FORM Interface?

From Conversational UI to... Conversational FORM Interface?

by Adrian Ababei on Oct 25 2017

Did you see this coming? 2016 was, undoubtedly, the year when chatbots ruled over the digital landscape. When all the “players” in the arena rushed to jump on this mega-trend and to ride the tide.

And then some of the voice interface's limitations have started to come out.

It's in this very context that the conversational form interface (not yet a mega-) trend has started to “steal away some of the spotlights”! It's then that designers with a vision decided to dig deep into the "old trunk" with out-of-fashion web interfaces and take out the “dusty” old web form

Yet, they weren't that naive to think that users would just move away from cool chat-based interfaces to... filling out clunky, long web forms. They definitely had to give web forms a modern touch to ensure user engagement.

And so, they made them... conversational!

This is how this “experimental” approach, the hybrid conversational form interface, was “born”! It's designed to improve user experience where conversational interfaces start to show their “weaknesses”. And it's designed to drift away from the classy, unanimously hated web forms.

Now, let us highlight for you here both:
 

  • the most “irksome” limitations that voice interfaces have started to show
  • how precisely the conversational form UI succeeds to deliver a better user experience where chatbots fail
     

The Biggest Inconveniences of Using a Purely Conversational UI 

“... for both users, development teams and site/app owners.”

It looks like chat-based conversational UIs have slightly loosened the “spell” that they had cast on users. 

Customers have gradually started to grow frustrated (and this is due mostly to their (too) high expectations in chatbots) when they realized that:
 

  • they have to (there's no other way) go through each and every single sentence that the bot asks, which leads to more tapping (and friction) than they would have expected
  • they can't just skip some of the questions in case they don't feel comfortable giving away certain sensitive information
  • they experience the whole information-collecting process as being mandatory, as if they're being “constrained” to divulge that data
     

On the other hand, compared to a conversational form interface, a purely conversational interface isn't any more convenient on designers'/developers' and their clients' side either:
 

  • dealing with the validation of some "tricky" answers isn't precisely a breeze (like when someone enters an invalid phone number, for instance)
  • in order to prevent all kinds of “dumb bot” experiences, the bot has to be perfectly “trained” to parse users' answers correctly (even when faced with situations where users give “I'm a butterfly collector” type of answers to a “What's your job title?” question)
  • it's no easy task for the app's/website's owner to actually set up the chatbot; they need to carefully plan ahead how the questions will be phrased, the used tone and voice etc.
     

How Exactly Does a Conversational Form Interface Increase User Engagement?

Now that we've “exposed” to you the voice interfaces' limitations, it's only logical that we present to you a solution to these issues, right?

Introducing web forms turned into conversations? Or conversational forms, if you prefer!

What started as an experiment now stands all the chances to perfectly fit all those scenarios when companies can't afford to just blindly jump on the latest UI trend! And where they need to go for a hybrid type of approach instead: conversational UI & web forms.

Here's what these “experiments” revealed:
 

  • users feel more comfortable knowing that they DO have the option to simply ignore filling in these conversational forms if they want to
     
  • since users interact with these forms only within conversations, practically these web forms aren't intrusive, like the old web forms used to be, when they would overlay on top of the open text fields; it doesn't feel like a disruption of the user's flow anymore
     
  • the same users tend to provide the required information much quicker than they do when faced with a conversational UI (they're already familiarized with web forms and they do not experience that “awkward” feeling that someone's “asking” them to give away information).
     
  • it calls for minimal bot interaction since users get to control, right within the form, whether they've correctly filled in the required fields or not (once they chose a wrong format, they can just correct it themselves)
     

In short:
 

  • it's not just the old “dreaded” type of web forms that users choose to fill in
  • they're actually delivered within the conversational UI itself
  • implicitly, it's not an exclusively voice-based conversation that we're dealing with
     

... but with a CI incorporating one or multiple web forms
 

Bottom Line 

If it doesn't fit, just don't jump on the latest design trend!” As simple as that.

Conversational UI doesn't have to be “purely” conversational after all! It could also mean voice-based conversation AND interactive elements such as buttons, cards or forms.

If you anticipate that this type of chat-based conversational UI:
 

  • won't get you too far with your information-collecting
  • will just manage to irritate your customers
     

… you can always take a step back from what's currently “hype” and experiment another type of UI instead. Maybe this hybrid conversational form interface will best fit your needs and your customers' expectations. 

Maybe you'll be surprised to discover that it's those “oldies but goldies”, “dusty” designs that help:
 

  • your users carry out the given tasks faster and with minimal friction
  • you to collect that concise, basic information or data that you need for tailoring your offers/products to your questioned customers' own needs and preferences
     

What's your opinion on this hybrid approach to UI design?

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