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Voice This! #4 Why we design
Hey Voice This! Fam 👀
Hold on tight because this week's issue has a theme. Maybe it's because of our submitted question of the week or maybe it's the questions in our DM's about building a CxD portfolio that inspired this line of thinking. Can you guess what it is?
In this issue we're exploring the why's of design: why we design and why it's important. The false lure of many design bootcamps in the market right now is: anyone can design. While we agree, with the right training and experience, anyone can design— not everyone wants to design. The "want" part is important.
As designers, our single most important responsibility is to the user. We are the ones, sometimes the only ones, uncovering what a user finds important and creating ways to add value to their life, if only for a moment. Our job is to protect the user. As one fellow designer puts it, "it's our job to guard the treasure."
Empathy is part of the role. More than that though, a large part of the job is advocacy, which can be hard and seem endless. You really have to "want" to design because in the midst of scope creep or product decisions that negatively impact a feature by confusing or restricting the user, it may not be the easiest thing to be a designer.
For anyone aspiring to enter the field, know this: it's more important to show "why" you're designing than the "how". Next time you're drafting up a case study for your portfolio, really address the people problem of why this situation needs a solution in the first place, then show how you came to that solution (without straying from the original problem!). It's not the easiest thing to talk about our work, but we are conversation designers after all 😌
Design is intentional. In Conversational AI, we have to be even more brutally honest and admit to ourselves: not everything requires a voice or chatbot solution, even though it might be fun to do.
I love the way Diana Deibel, co-author of Conversations with Things said it:
"The way that I usually start to think about deploying a conversational interface is: Is this something that somebody would want to have a conversation about? Is this conversational at all as a use case?"
Us at Voice This! Podcast were extremely lucky to have this fantastic author pair as a guest. IMHO this episode is a pure do-not-miss.
By the way, if you're interested in conversation design and HAVEN'T read Conversations with Things yet— excuse me, what are you waiting for? But you also don't have to take my word for it. Here's Rebecca Evanhoe on their book:
"One of the big challenges in the field is helping businesses understand what they're missing if they leave out conversation design. And that's a challenge for individual conversation designers because it means that you're inherently in a position of advocacy. So throughout the book, we tried to put in content not just for people to know how to do their jobs, but also how to advocate for it."
Our favorite reads from the past few weeks, including some oldies but goodies. Happy reading!
The history of chatbots, by Catherine Thorbecke for CNN Business: https://www.cnn.com/2022/08/20/tech/chatbot-ai-history/index.html
"Being creative is not about coming up with stuff that no one else can think of. It’s about making good design choices and being able to tell others why you did it." by Jurgen Gravestein: https://medium.com/conversationalacademy/4-things-every-conversation-designer-should-know-385635b924b9
From design superstar Julie Zhuo herself, Coffee Chat Series #1: https://medium.com/the-year-of-the-looking-glass/coffee-chat-series-1-getting-ahead-as-an-early-career-designer-12d0c0aaec67
Turn-taking is not like a game of ping-pong, by Ruth Corps: http://www.mpi-talkling.mpi.nl/?p=1835&lang=en
And because we love each of these so much, I'm adding them all in. Thank you for these brilliant explanations, Guy Tone!
Entities vs. slots, what are they?: https://medium.com/voice-tech-global/the-difference-between-entities-and-slots-a-definitive-answer-b00a65f5c3dc
APIs— how to use them in CxD: https://medium.com/voice-tech-global/apis-all-you-need-to-know-as-a-conversation-designer-2980a6dcccd8
Confidence scores— how to leverage these in CxD: https://medium.com/voice-tech-global/machine-learning-confidence-scores-all-you-need-to-know-as-a-conversation-designer-8babd39caae7
This is the part of our newsletter created by you! Every issue a lucky listener will be able to get their question featured and answered by Millani and Elaine.
This week’s question is one we've heard a lot: how technical should a designer be?
How much of the technical side of conversational AI (coding, machine learning) do you need to know as a designer?
Millani: This is a good question. I don't think it's mandatory to be technical in order to be a designer. As of my day-to-day as a conversation designer, I work closely with developers who work on the coding aspects. However, having knowledge to code and basic concepts of machine learning helps you understand how your designs are being implemented. I would recommend taking introductory courses in machine learning.
My answer feels like a summary to what you’ll read next so I also recommend reading that too. (Okay Millani ☠️)
Elaine: Short answer: just enough, but not deeply. Obviously, you should know what you're talking about— if someone asks you to scope out new intents or figure out what's happening in a bug by looking at what the NLU understood, your answer shouldn't be, "Wait, what?". You should be comfortable with the terminology, but it isn't a requirement to go out and take some python coding courses and try to learn ML (because that's entirely a different career path).
If you're curious about how AI works, I recommend starting with the big picture and take something like: AI for Everyone. That course helped me out so much when I first started learning!
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