By Erika Hall; foreword by John Maeda
Softcover, 130 pages, $21
Published by A Book Apart
Chatbots and virtual assistants are popping up everywhere these days. When designed well, conversational interactions can be natural, quick and even delightful. But when designed poorly, not even the most breezily written responses can conceal the screech of the underlying digital machinery. Just because it talks like a human or texts like a human doesn’t mean that it’s truly human-centered design.
Erika Hall reminds us of this in Conversational Design. She reaches beyond the gleam of conversational interfaces by digging deep into the heart of what it means to be human. You’ll gain a newfound appreciation for human language as Hall outlines the core principles of conversation—for instance, providing just enough information and being polite—which she translates into design principles for human-computer interaction. Hall also digs into how to develop an appropriate personality for your product or service, and shares tips that will help your design team escape hierarchy and reams of documentation to work in a more conversational—namely, collaborative and immediate—manner.
Like a pleasant conversation with a helpful coworker, Hall’s writing flows with guidance, examples and humor. Her recommendation to read poems for their fresh language is lovely, and her list of “avoidably ugly words” should be hung up and expanded. Conversational Design will come as a welcome balm if you’re struck speechless at the thought of leaping into this new world of machines that sound like humans. Because, as Hall writes, “there is no next big thing, only the next step in an unfolding story of how people use technology to be more themselves.” —Esther Oh