Most companies are aware that there’s a thing called Conversational UI. It’s related to chatbots and Intelligent Assistants, but what is it really?

Here’s a quick explainer:

Google’s chat app has a conversational interface. It can be used to chat with your friends, as well as Google’s intelligent assistant.

A conversational interface is a user interface that mimics chatting with a real person. It’s human-like, but not really human.


So instead of taking traditional inhumane approach to communicating with computers – clicking on icons and buttons and writing syntax-specific commands – you simply chat. Or talk.

You tell it what to do in plain English.

Simple as that.

It’s like chat. Only with a computer instead of another breathing human person.

Conversational UI (noun) :A conversational interface is any UI that mimics chatting with a real human.

Computers and humans speak a different language

Computers and people speak a different language. For decades we have relied on graphical user interfaces (GUI) to make interaction between the two possible. Actually, this went fairly well.

But GUIs always come with an obvious obstacle: there’s a learning curve.

Over the years, user experience experts worked hard to make the interface more intuitive. But it still takes effort from the user to understand it.

Graphical Interfaces have a learning curve. This header requires an experienced user to understand.

You have to know that the hamburger icon opens a menu. Or that a button triggers a certain action. So no matter how user friendly the design, there’s always a learning curve.

Graphics are a hurdle between the user and the product. And conversational UI takes away this hurdle and brings users closer to the product.

Conversational UI redefines the relationship between humans and technology. It’s intuitive. Natural.

Graphical Interface of Microsoft Windows

How natural language processing is making conversational UI possible

The question is: why is conversational UI a hot topic right now and not 5 years ago?

Natural language processing (NLP) holds the answer.

Natural language processing technology is making great advancements. Its rapid development is crucial to making digital interactions more intuitive, accessible and efficient.

NLP is what helps computers understand human messages.

Natural Language Processing (NLP) : The ability of a computer program to understand human speech as it is spoken. NLP is a component of artificial intelligence (AI).

NLP opens the way for the conversational user interface. People now give input via text and computers are capable of processing and interpreting this.

Based on that analysis they trigger a specific action. They respond with a message or share a link.

It becomes a more natural interaction than simply clicking on buttons.

Conversational UI brings users and computers closer together.

How Natural Language Processing works to understand textual input.

Graphics are an extra layer in connecting a customer with the product. It is a hurdle in making the customer successful in achieving his goals.

How a conversational user interface helps you achieve your goals

Want pizza?

Sure you do.

But you don’t want to go to a website, click through a few screens and select the pizza you want, right?

You want to just type: pepperoni pizza.

Hi there! 
I'm a chatbot that helps you order pizza. 🍕
What can I get you? 

- Pepperoni pizza.

Good choice. 
It's my favourite!
Where do you want that delivered? 🏠

-1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington

It should take about 30 minutes. 
We'll charge you $14. 
Sound good?

- Sounds good. Thanks.

We'll give you a heads up when we're 5 minutes away. ⌛

Using a conversational user interface we get to the core of what we want to achieve faster. It allows us to use dialogue to push users through their journeys faster.

Looks like we need a little more information.
Which city do you live in?

- Den Haag

What street and number?

- Plein 2

And what's your phone number?

- 06632947239

Thanks. That should do for you.

Instead of asking customers to fill in a full form, we can create a dialogue. By asking input for each field separately, we create a more engaging experience.

Conversational UI turns a boring task into a fun and easy experience.

Writing dialogue for Conversational UI

Instead of designing graphics, we now have to design conversations. We have to write dialogues that interact with our customers and help them get jobs done.

This isn’t easy.

Your dialogue has to guide the customer in a friendly manner. It has to be considerate, entertaining and most of all effective.

Each message has a purpose: to help the customer.

Natural language processing makes conversational UI possible. And it’s now up to great ux-writers to turn this new channel into a warm and effective experience.

Instead of turning to traditional content editors, we now look at novelists and screenwriters for inspiration. Their dialogues push stories forward while creating depth at the same time.

Famous dialogue from the Tarantino movie Pulp Fiction. Two colleagues talking about a trip one of them took to Europe. The full scene tells us a lot about the characters, their world views and their relationship.

Since we want to help customers get jobs done as fast as possible, while still enjoying our brand experience, we can learn from screenwriters and apply their methods to dialogue writing for chatbots.

That means you have to read Quinten Tarantino scripts and Elmore Leonard novels if you ever want your chatbots come to live.

Your conversational UI is purpose driven so you can’t be as creative as Tarantino. But your dialogue has to be helpful, natural and an extension of your brand. Your conversational interface needs to have a voice.

Every word has to be spot on.

And every sentence should service multiple purposes: advance the customer journey, develop brand value and be engaging.

Want to learn more about writing dialogues for conversational UI? Why not read How To Write Chatbot Dialogue and sign up to our newsletter.

Tl;dr Advancements in natural language processing allow us to communicate with computers in a new way. NLP has made the conversational interface possible. This allows us to now chat with computers in a more natural and intuitive way – and this redefines the relationship between humans and technology.