Imagine walking into the grocery store. You look to the right and see produce. You look to the left and see the deli, while the cashiers are positioned front and center. Now close your eyes. Can you navigate your way to the milk? Even though this is a familiar environment, without wayfinding and your sense of sight it’s unlikely that you could find your way.
Essentially, walking into a grocery store with your eyes closed is similar to most conversational interfaces today. When you take away the visual layer, you’re left with raw content. Everything you need is available, but without the proper cues, information discovery is difficult.
Content strategy is core to building effective and engaging conversational interfaces because it’s the beginning of the evolution to screenless interactions. Without illustrations, the content infrastructure and taxonomical relationships are the only map from one piece of content to the next.
When you’re having a conversation with Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant, an ask-and-answer relationship is quickly established. Unlike perusing a website or browsing through a store, in a conversational interface you don’t know the full gamut of what’s available. Without a way to guide people through sight, a new content paradigm has to be established.
This shift from visual to voice-driven exploration requires strong semantic relationships. Content strategists are the key to creating structures and relationships to guide users through content that is more immersive than asking for the weather forecast.
To create successful scenarios for conversational interfaces, you need to build an information strategy. A taxonomy and a set of controlled vocabularies will help the interface make sense of what the user is asking and then add value to the conversation. These relationships and user intents are not automatically inherent in content, which is why involving a content strategy team is vital. Through auditing, analysis, and content modeling, content strategists can determine the relevant ties between information.
Say you ask Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant for a cranberry sauce recipe. Intelligent content structures enable Alexa to source cranberry sauce, jelly and relish as the variances are objective. Your grandmother’s cranberry relish may be someone else’s cranberry sauce. By creating these connections, the experience enables a level of discovery for the user through the use of a taxonomy. You’ve now advanced from ask-and-answer to exploratory.
Once you’ve selected the right recipe, the interface begins to offer things to do while prepping your cranberries. Since the recipe is tagged Thanksgiving, Alexa can ask if you’d like her to read an article about growing your gratitude while you cook. The article selected is tagged with the length in minutes ensuring that your cranberry sauce is completed in the same amount of time as the article. These tidbits of metadata are the glue that creates a contextual and graceful interaction.
While you only set out to make cranberry sauce, your encounter was richer in discovery based on intelligent content. These types of exploratory experiences are made possible only through a holistic content strategy. From the semantics of user requests to the classification of content, brands need content strategists at the center of conversational interface design as these technologies move rapidly up the adoption curve.
Image credit: Google Home by Stuart O'Neil from the Noun Project