What we learned designing a virtual assistant

I spent a good chunk of last year designing and user testing a ‘virtual assistant’ for a major entertainment brand. So I was interested to read a pair of articles from Neilsen Normanabout chatbots and intelligent assistants. Our virtual assistant worked liked the former, with text input and a chat interface. But it had the increased intelligence of the latter.

On chatbots, NN/g say:

These bots simply replicate functionality that is already available on the web or in mobile apps. Is it worth spending time and money for this new channel? Unlikely — at least in the US and other countries where the traditional channels are already well-established.

This was definitely a question we heard. We faced scepticism over whether we’d created a worse-than-useless chatbot who’d insist on doing site searches for you. If you’re old enough to remember Clippy, you’ll know this feeling.

Things get more promising when it comes to ‘intelligent assistants’ like Alexa (emphasis mine):

Users have great difficulty accomplishing advanced tasks with traditional computer systems: only 31% of the adult population in rich countries are capable of performing tasks similar to the multitask and research needs in our table, when using traditional user interfaces. Since more than two thirds of the population don’t have the required computer skills for doing anything advanced with current computers, there’s great potential for helping these many peopleif the intelligent assistants were in fact good enough to take over the tasks.

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5 books to read if you’re starting out in UX

We have a few new Experience Consultants starting this month, so I asked the team which books had helped them most in their UX careers. Here are five of my favourites:

Don’t Make Me Think — Steve Krug

This is one of the classic introductions to UX and is worth reading in its entirety (it’s an easy read).

Design Is A Job — Mike Monteiro

Mike Monteiro explains that doing design isn’t some mystical art, it’s helping a client solve a problem (and getting paid to do it).

Continue reading “5 books to read if you’re starting out in UX”

Why Designers Don’t Want to Think When They Read
“ It’s clear that the currency of design discourse is really concerned with the “how” of design, not the “why” of it. As Teixeira and Braga write:
“ While designers tend to be skeptical of magic...

Why Designers Don’t Want to Think When They Read

It’s clear that the currency of design discourse is really concerned with the “how” of design, not the “why” of it. As Teixeira and Braga write:

While designers tend to be skeptical of magic formulas—we’re decidedly suspicious of self-help gurus, magic diets, or miraculous career advice—we have a surprisingly high tolerance for formulaic solutions when it comes to design.

Designers Are Defining Usability Too Narrowly

The Problem with Patterns