Ever sit down to a typical computer? If so, you have encounted “the tyranny of the blank screen.” The person sits in front of the computer screen, ready to begin. Begin what? How?

  • Donald Norman, Design of Everyday Things, 1988

Chatbots be they voice or text face the same user interface problems that old school command-line interfaces did 20 years ago before windowing GUIs came about. When you start up, you’re faced with a void. it’s extremely difficult to convey to users what the acceptable entry points are and how to phrase them to get what you want. The inputs now are far more generous than classic command-line world, but it’s still vague enough to induce paralysis in end users. If I have a bunch of pull-down menus with clear directives on what I can and can’t do, I’m going to be productive much more quickly.

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Time has proven that 2D screen UIs are by far the most effective at communicating information and keyboard, mouse and touch are the most effective user inputs. I think that voice can be very useful if you give your users very clear parameters particularly via screen prompts. A directed path a la old IVR systems can be a very effective model for letting users feel powerful while keeping them within the range of your product’s capabilities.