Tag Archives: ux

“Featured contents” function design for instant messaging apps

Recently I studied IM Bots, but unfortunately every time that I experienced them on a Facebook Messenger I felt unsatisfied. Bots and AI are for sure the personal assistants of the future, but we must wait for their evolution and for our language adaptation (read my posts about Bots: Chatbots are contents, not conversations and Facebook Messenger’s Bots are direct, customizable and automated communication channels, not personal assistants).

Intead of Bots, in these months I used many times a lot of Chat Customer Services on some companies web sites and on Messenger. As all the studies say, communicating with a company through our favourite instant messaging app is smarter than downloading any branded app or using the old-fashioned email. My experience was great and these companies increased loyalty and my admiration.

Using Whatsapp, Messenger, Telgram or WeChat for companies is a great challenge for many technical and communicational factors:

  • Technical, because CRMs should access to IM platforms for identifying users and managing the requests trafic.
  • Communicational, because some contents should be always and easily available for customers instead of lose in the chat’s flow.

As a Product Manager I focused on the second problem and, starting from a Whatsapp-like layout, I designed the “Featured contents” function. The scope of this function is to enrich the discussion between the customer and the company saving the requested contents in a reserved area of the app.
Watch the “Featured contents” gif animation for understanding how it function in the direct relationship between a Hotel and its customer.

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Chatbots are contents, not conversations

After my first post about Facebook Messenger Bots, I continued my research because I understand the importance of Chatbots and Instant Messaging apps. Following a transcription of the presentation that I published on Slideshare.

The assumptions from where I started my reasearch are:

  • Users don’t want conversations. Users want pertinent and timely contents within the app that they use most.
  • Chatbots have the reason to exist because users don’t like to download lot of apps and because mobile sites are slow or difficult to navigate.
  • Chatbots are a communication channel with an interaction pattern in a sort of way similar to the natural language. They aren’t virtual sales agents.
  • Chatbots have the difficult mission to bring together contents and services within messaging apps.
  • The best chatbots performances aren’t based on conversations. Interacting with them requires new functions and a standardized command language.

So I can say that Chatbots are an important technology because:

  • they represent a way for engaging users within their favorite apps
  • they can replace apps and websites for simple and recurrent tasks
  • they are the only direct marketing channel comparable with the email
  • they revolutionize the smartphone’s push communication marketing
  • they are the entrance point for advanced data building programs
  • users interest in downloading branded apps is decreasing
  • mobile navigation sometimes is frustrating
  • users are accustomed in making Google searches in a conversational way

But this importance bring with it some threats:

  • chatbots can’t really understand natural language
  • chatbots can’t replace the all the other apps functions
  • chatbots could decrease the users curiosity and research capacity
  • chatbots will struggle for visibility
  • chatbots can’t wrong a lot of answers and they can’t ask too much questions
  • chatbots must care a lot about language, style, frequency and relevancy of their push contents
  • chatbots aren’t a branded channel

Chatbots are the future of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Direct Marketing for the following reasons:

  • because they deliver profiled offers and contents, receiving immediate feedbacks
  • because they are an effective support for the human-based customer care
  • because they will build accurate customers profiles analyzing the interactions and asking for information, ratings etc

Thinking about all these incredible opportunities, I examined the standard instant messaging apps user experience and I realized that Chatbots should have a dedicated set of functions that designed as following.

chatbot_dedicatedfunctions_ui_antoniopatti_1.jpg

At this point I tried to go practical matching my Chatbots functions and experience with some generalistic companies.

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Facebook Messenger’s Bots are direct, customizable and automated communication channels, not personal assistants

Reading on the web the new Facebook Messenger’s Bots reviews I confirmed my idea: human language is still too complex to understand by any kind of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Read “I Tried Shopping on Facebook Messenger. It Didn’t Go Well” by Lukas Thoms and “Facebook’s grand plan to simplify your life is off to a rough start” by Alex Heath.

So please, stop dreaming about a J.A.R.V.I.S.-like Bot. AI will never be like a personal assistant that knows everything about you, that understands the environment, your feelings and your needs. AI assistant will be for ever a digital system that gives complex and nice outputs just because someone coded all kind of linguistic inputs that a human can produce; this kind of assistant will never really understand what’s happening. The most advanced AI possible is the one that has the biggest relational and semantic database tested (manually!) by real operators (read “The Humans Hiding Behind the Chatbots” by Ellen Huet).

Natural language isn’t the key

Machines that understand some plain language commands and that can anticipate some users needs are possible, but computers that are able to understand all kind of phrases that a human pronounces, sorry, but aren’t near to come.

Like everybody us today can understand icons on expensive glass-plates called smartphone, in the same way we must create a simplified language for communicating and using Bots.

For me nobody wants to lose his time talking with a Bot even if companies would love the idea that millions of virtual and assertive sales people talk 24h/7 with customers. Instead, the most amazing feature of the Bots AI isn’t their humanity, but the fact that users can treat them without any courtesy, that they will memorize users tastes and credentials, that they will anticipate users needs thanks to some “natural language” commands and some Facebook profile analysis. 

All this doesn’t mean that companies shouldn’t care about language per se, but that they should drive users to use a simplified language for the following reasons:

  • a simple language is easier to explain in a sort of tutorial during the first chats
  • a simple language is faster and more efficient than the natural one. If the number of taps for receiving an information on a chat is a way more than searching it on a website, the chatbot is going to fail
  • creating a sort of standard simplified language for all the Bots will ease exponentially their usage.

The users fruition model will be like the one that today drives sites like Yahoo Answers, Quora or the common FAQs pages where contents are organized and required using the “How to…” and “What is…” format.

Conclusion

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The inspiring “Driving Paradox”

I work in Digital Communication and I’ve worked on the functional & user experience design of websites, mobile applications, advergames, digital signage systems and info kiosks.

I love cars and motorcycles since when I was a child. I remember very well the “procedure” that my parents had to apply first to start our old Fiat 500, the incredible internal design of the Renault 4 of my neighbour and the unintelligible fashion of the Motobecane Mobyx parked in my garage.

back-to-the-future-delorean

I think that cars and motorcycles are the most impressive demonstration of the humankind power of imagination and adaptation. Imagination because who put together the technology necessary for an “autonomous run” of a 4/2 wheels object for me was an artists, not an engineer. Adaptation because driving a car or a motorcycle is one of the most complex mixture of unnatural gestures that we have on the earth.

That’s the point. That’s the Driving Paradox.

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How to design for visual impaired people

This is the post that I wrote after the event “Design beyond design boundaries” for the Milan’s group of the Interaction Design Foundation.

Last Saturday September 20th, IDF Milan organized its 4th event “Design beyond visual boundaries” in collaboration with the Italian startup Horus Technology. The main objective of the workshop was to start designing the User Interface of their product.

Horus is a device that supports visually impaired people like a virtual assistant. It will be positioned on normal glasses and it will interact through audio bone conduction and a manual controller with buttons. Horus will have two 5mpx cameras, a separated battery pack and it won’t rely on internet/bluetooth connections to be functional.

occhiali1-1100x400

 

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Interaction Design related terms definitions

During the first Interaction Design Foundation Milan Chapter event, the group decided to define the most important interaction design related terms.

I started to approach professionally this field of Digital Communication a few months ago, but I care about User Experience since my first project in 2006.

My definitions are really general, almost philosophical. They are based on my daylife experience and on what I’m learning at Interaction Design Foundation courses.

UX is how users use and feel a digital product.

UI is what users see and use for interacting with a digital product.

IA is how contents and functions are titled and positioned in a digital product’s plain structure.

Usability is a digital product use efficiency rate.

Interaction Design is designing UX and IA and contributing to the UI.

Service Design is everything involves customers beyond the strictly digital product experience.

I hope you enjoy.
If you don’t, I agree with you. This is a User Experience feedback too 😉

ANSA’s site UX critical issues

March 26th the news agency ANSA launched its new web site (read the article in Italian).

For promoting a discussion on the IDF Milan group, I analyzed the ANSA’s design and I wrote down a UX critical issues list. But first of the list, I want to declare that I never used the ANSA web site and that beyond all the critics, I think that globally they did a good job, except for the point 4.

1) The header buttons are links to different services, function and sites. They are not coherent and not really visible. They seem graphical elements.

ANSA header

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2) The search field is not visible and could be confused with the other icons.

ANSA search field

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3) The “temi caldi” is confusing because it’s positioned in the breadcrumb position.

ANSA temi caldi

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WordReference search box evolution

 

During the Interaction Design Foundation course, I answered this question:

Please identify an example where a search box has been used in a design and outline the various stages of implementing the search box in this particular instance.

I chose as an example the amazing WordReference translation service. I use it since 2004 and I clearly know the users needs: translate.

2001

WordReference search box in 2001

In 2001 it didn’t have the search box focus on the home. The multiple search boxes were displayed on the left small column. There was not enough space for long words and users had to scroll the page for certain languages. Moreover the centre of the page was full of contents that were absolutely not useful for the users.
Visit it on the Wayback Machine

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Designing my new Google Reader

Are you one of the last desperate Google Reader users like me?
Don’t worry, you can still read your feeds using other readers and then, Google Reader wasn’t that great service that we think.

I work in digital communication and I’ve three different accounts that I use for my personal branding, for the Transport Company of Milan online buzz, and for the Shopping in Italy news hunting and social monitoring.

Is Google reader enough for me? No it isn’t!

For my job I need an application that browse, save, organize, discover, edit and share contents on my social media and with my social media team.
Does Google reader have all these feature? No it doesn’t, so stop crying and being romantic!

GoogleReaderAntonioPatti

The Google Reader closure gave me the opportunity to think about my feed reader perfect tool. I thought to all my needs as a social media manager, as a project leader and as entrepreneur. Ironically I understood that I don’t need a simple reader, but a Corporate Content Aggregation and Management Application.

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Foursquare switch to OpenStreetMap and simplify the access to the open data

On Wednesday February 29th, the bissextile day of 2012, Foursquare announced on his blog the switch from Google Maps to OpenStreetMaps.

I hope that this transition will help the open source/data world like never before. This is the first time that an Open Source project can be improved simply using an easy, known and fun application like Foursquare.

The first change reason they considered for is the economic one. Last October Google announced that more than 25,000 map loads per day had to be paid with the Google Premier API.
Thor Mitchell wrote that this change affected just 0.35% of world’s websites, but for that small amount of people the prices plans were really high.

Ed Freyfogle of Nestoria had the same 4SQ experience and solved the problem in the same “open way”. In his post he wrote strong words about the commercial attitude of the Google’s employee that represent the real value of the map services for web and mobile.

Unfortunately Google’s sales process was not good. Having agreed to a time for a call, the sales rep missed the appointment with no warning, instead calling me 45 minutes late. It was quickly obvious he had done no research whatsoever about our service, what we do, or even where (in which countries) we do it. He was unable to explain the basics of the new charging regime – for example, what exactly is a “map-view”, telling me instead to “ask your developers”. Finally he quoted a price to continue using Google Maps (just on nestoria.co.uk, one of eight countries we operate in) that would have bankrupted our company.

On the Foursquare post comments are focused on the bad OSM mapping information of cities like New Mexico and Sao Paulo, while some Russian countries are mapped better than Google Map. What does it mean?

disquis image
Grawl screenshot

Civil earth mapping is still generally incomplete according to the entity that promote it. Google Map is focused on commercial scope because it works on advertising and business applications. OpenStreetMap is focused on the openness of its platform, but depends totally from the users. The advanced digital users like the russians 🙂

Unfortunately the paradox is that the Google Map success is due to his easy personalization and integration on the web. Everyone can build a little map or can add his company on it. Using Google Map gives the sense of openness that is not real!

When users put datas on Google Map give their information to BigG that first tracks our profiles, and then filsl its local databases. Ok, it gives us a a great map service, but this is not open, its a business product that users are building with their datas and a strong usage.

If I were in OpenStreetMap I focus on little instruments to facilitate access to the map instruments. For example the maps for personal web sites, small applications for mobile and so on. Untill companies will be forced to consider OMS as a Google Map alternative just for economic reasons, the OMS project probably will not fill the mapping holes of his atlas.

Open Source and Open Data should be easy end fun. 

Foursquare has the unique occasion to spread an open source project that need to be filled with users, gamification, badges, specials and so on. Foursquare could even innovate his system developing a personal reality mapping function that goes beyond the simple check-in system. Users could build their onf maps using the 4SQ mobile technology mixed to the OSM map framework, and then they could open ecommerce corners or sell local adv.

I’ll follow them, even if for me Foursquare is still an Antisocial Network 😉