Language at the ❤ of Conversational Interfaces

A Chat About Language and UI

Robotspeak in San Francisco. A great store, but it’s also exactly how conversational interfaces should NOT sound: like a robot. Conversational interfaces offer a natural way to deal with a multitude of digital asks and tasks and the crafting of language is critical to that intent. (Image by Ultan Ó Broin)

Robotspeak in San Francisco. A great store, but it’s also exactly how conversational interfaces should NOT sound: like a robot. Conversational interfaces offer a natural way to deal with a multitude of digital asks and tasks and the crafting of language is critical to that intent. (Image by Ultan Ó Broin)

Chatbots and conversational interfaces are all the rage right with startups, VCs, innovators and users alike. Messenger apps have surpassed social media in terms of popularity and we’re witnessing the awesome agency of chatbots such as KLM Messenger as a natural way for users to perform a huge range of digital asks and tasks without the need for special devices or apps.

Going Global With Conversational Interfaces

But what are the localization and translation aspects to chatbots and conversational computing?

To a large extent, the natural language processing (NLP) backend capabilities of the bot or messaging platform determine much of the linguistic side of the user experience (UX). However, there are plenty of other considerations for internationalization and localization people to concern themselves with, not least educating designers and developers in globalization best practices.

Check out this super article “Do you want your chatbot converse in foreign languages? My learnings from bot devs” by Artem Nedrya for a start.

It is also very clear that there is a huge role for the conversational UI writer in the design and creation of conversational interfaces. An understanding of language, its style, tone, grammar, and so on, is central to making or breaking a conversational interface UX but also to ensuring that any content created is localizable and makes sense to a local user.

Here’s an article I wrote for Chatbots Magazine that covers the topic of language and chatbot UX that also touches the translation space. I hope you find my thoughts in “Writing Skills: At the ❤️ Of Chatbot UX Design” useful.

Conversational UI is dependent on bot and messenger platform NLP capability but human language skills are still definitely at the core of conversational UI design. (Image by Ultan Ó Broin)

Conversational UI is dependent on bot and messenger platform NLP capability. But human language skills are still definitely at the core of conversational UI design. (Image by Ultan Ó Broin)

Don’t be surprised if you see the topics of chatbots and conversational interfaces coming up on the agendas of localization conferences and in publications a lot more!

As ever, for a conversation on this blog post, find the comments box!

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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