Since the world has gone digital, the demand for chatbots and voice assistants has been rising fast. Due to this, new roles like conversation designers are emerging that allow companies to create better conversational experiences for their users through their knowledge of artificial intelligence and human psychology.
This article will discuss what a conversation designer is, what they do, and what skills you need to become one. Here's what we'll cover:
What is a conversation designer?
Conversation design refers to the practice of determining the purpose of a conversational interface and how it'll work. A conversational designer is responsible for the entire user experience of a chatbot. They define the chatbot's purpose, design its user experience and content strategy, create a conversational flow, and test and iterate on it until everything works perfectly.
Essentially, they design natural and easy-to-use chatbots and monitor them to ensure that the chatbot is doing its job well. Conversational designers work on everything from chatbots to voice assistants to video games. So, they need to understand human psychology as well as how computers process information to create an accessible and useful chatbot.
For conversational interfaces to be truly successful, a designer must understand how to design for voice and text and how to think about designing conversations as a whole.
Any company that wants to leverage technology to allow people to interact with products or systems more naturally will require a conversation designer. Some of the most popular companies leveraging these conversational AI technologies include Apple, Google, Microsoft, Zendesk, IBM, etc.
How much is a conversation designer salary?
According to Glassdoor, the average salary in 2022 is $41,678 per year. However, sources like ZipRecruiter mention that it could be as high as $97,473 per year. Several factors impact the salary, such as location, company size, amount of experience, job title, responsibilities, etc., explaining the variability in the data.
What are the tasks and responsibilities of a conversation designer?
Conversation designers typically work with a team of developers and other designers to create chatbots that meet the needs of their clients. They’re responsible for creating dialogue flow charts, writing dialogue, and testing chatbots to ensure they function correctly. A successful conversation designer must think creatively, solve problems quickly, and communicate effectively.
Ankur Patankar, Conversation Designer at SmartAction, says, “No two days are quite the same for me. I handle multiple clients and projects at the same time. Some clients are patient and very open to new ideas. Some have a very specific idea of what they want and they just want it done. Oftentimes I'm trying to bridge that gap.”
Here are three phases to which they contribute:
Designing the conversation flows
They’re responsible for creating the overall design of the conversation flow and interface. Designers consider the user's needs and objectives when designing the conversation. They also consider the company's branding when developing a chatbot's personality.
- Understanding user behavior: It requires understanding user behavior, like what motivates users and how they behave within different contexts. For example, what kinds of questions do they ask, what's prompting them to ask these questions, what's the next logical step, etc.
- Understanding user intent: User intent is a vital conversational AI concept—it drives everything from message length to response time. Understanding why a user wants to interact with the bot is crucial.
- Personalizing based on user needs: For a conversational experience to be successful, the bot should adapt and change based on what the user says or does. If a designer creates a model that can analyze data from previous conversations and iterate accordingly, they can achieve this outcome.
Developing and prototyping the conversations
Works with developers to create the actual chatbot conversations. They write the script for the chatbot and design the conversation flow. They also test the chatbot to ensure that it is engaging and natural-sounding.
- Designing mockups: They need to create wireframes and mockups to explain the conversation flows based on which the bot offers responses.
- Mapping conversation flows: Mapping the conversation beforehand gives developers and stakeholders an overview of how the chatbot will function. For example, it'll answer questions like:
- How will your bot respond to different types of inputs?
- How should it handle ambiguous or incomplete input?
- What happens when the user doesn't say anything?
- Prototyping with technical teams: Collaboration with engineers and the rest of the product team is a given. Designers must work with the entire team to ensure that the final prototype doesn't waver from the initial goal.
Testing for accuracy and efficiency
They're responsible for testing the chatbot to ensure it is functioning properly. Designers also test the chatbot's conversational skills to make it sound natural and human-like.
- Validating the flow: Testing is a critical part of the designing process because it ensures that the flows designers have created produce the desired results once deployed.
- Maps the error handling steps: As with any technology, chatbots are prone to errors too. So, designers must also include error-handling steps so that the failure rate is as low as possible.
- Continuous iteration: Once the bot is deployed, the designer's job is not done. They still have to gather user feedback to ensure it works how users need it to. It means they have to monitor the bot's progress using analytics tools continuously and modify it.
Ankur also adds, “Not much of my day is spent reworking the actual design; a large portion is reviewing change requests and tickets, and communicating with internal and external stakeholders on my (and their) recommendations.”
It shows that validation and testing is where a designer might spend most of their time.
What tools does a conversation designer use?
Typically, designers use wireframes for prototyping the user experience of a website or mobile app. The same principle applies to conversation flows too. To test these ideas, they can prototype and validate the ideas to ensure they have the correct logical setup.
We’ve listed a few tools that are a part of every conversation designer’s tech stack:
- Voiceflow: It's a tool that lets you design, prototype, and launch voice chatbots. You can create your voice chatbot and publish it with just a few clicks.
- BotMock: It's a codeless rapid prototyping tool for building conversational apps. Users can build, test, and ideate their customer experiences for various platforms using the WYSIWYG editor.
- Adobe: You can use Adobe XD to demonstrate your designs' interactive functions with prototypes and live demonstrations.
- Miro: Although Miro is widely considered a whiteboarding tool, they have several templates you can use to prototype conversation flows. They have robust collaboration features too.
- Figma: Figma is a cloud-based application for interface design with additional offline features. It's one of the most popular tools for prototyping and collaboration, as it's free but has many robust features.
- LucidChart: It’s a web-based diagramming application that allows users to develop and share diagrams and charts for various purposes—not limited to design.
- Sketch: It's a diagramming and prototyping tool native to the mac OS and can be used for the entire design-to-handoff process.
- Amazon Lex: It's a service for building conversational interfaces into any application. This cloud-based service, trained using deep learning technologies, powers Amazon's Alexa.
- Google Dialogflow: Dialogflow is an NLU platform that designs and integrates a conversational user interface into applications like voice-activated apps, bots, devices, and software.
What skills does a conversation designer need?
Conversation designers must have several hard and soft skills to contribute to this emerging field. Here's what is typically expected in the market:
Based on our experience, we’ve listed a few must-have skills to excel in this field below:
Natural Language Understanding (NLU)
NLU is the ability of a computer to understand human language, and it's a critical part of conversational design. This knowledge is necessary for conversational designers to create a virtual assistant to understand natural speech and respond.
They also need to know how natural language processing (NLP) and response generation works. All these technologies form a part of the base technology required to create these conversation flows.
It’s a field of study focusing on how users interact with products and services and how designers can use these interactions to create better interfaces. They do this by creating prototypes that allow them to test the usability of their designs, which helps them improve them before they go live.
Ankur says that it’s important to study the transfer of data. “A conversation can be boiled down to how information is moved between multiple parties. If we talk about a football game, we're both recalling specific plays and deciding which were relevant to the point currently being made. How did the quarterback do? Well I can't remember, so maybe I'll talk about the defense instead. That's just information being (re)collected and transferred to the other person,” he adds.
Prototyping & design
Prototyping allows designers to test ideas before committing to them, which helps them determine if they work or need changes before moving forward. For this, they need to have the capabilities like creating logical flow diagrams and knowledge of tools like Voiceflow, BotMock, Figma, etc.
Conversational designers need to have data analysis skills to analyze how people use their products or services to determine what changes need to be made to improve them. It can include analyzing past interactions, listening closely for tone when communicating with users, or observing where drop offs and escalations occurred using chatbot analytics tools.
Conversational designers also need strong project management skills to work collaboratively with other team members, including product managers, visual designers, and engineers, to complete projects on time and within budget. Creating alignment across several teams and stakeholders can be a challenging part of the role.
Agile scrum is a popular project management method because it allows them to break down large tasks into smaller pieces that you can complete over time as milestones are reached.
They need strong communication skills to communicate what they need to their team and vice versa. They must also be able to take feedback from their peers and clients, identify any issues with the design, and fix them.
Moreover, they need excellent verbal and written communication skills as they're responsible for copywriting the conversations.
Final thoughts on conversation designers
Conversational designers make interfaces more natural, human, and conversational, i.e., less common, predictable, and more immersive for their users. They must understand the business’s goals and KPIs, create user scenarios, prototype conversational experiences, test with users (and iterate on their work), and create reusable components.
They work on making the process from the first contact with a customer to the last step more user-friendly and pleasant—and are a great addition to any modern business. Considering that it’s a newly emerging field, the scope for this role is only bound to increase with time as more intuitive conversational interfaces will be needed.