T03: Conversational UX Design

Sunday, 15 July 2018, 08:30 – 12:30


Robert Moore (short bio)

IBM Research-Almaden, United States



  1. To learn how to apply conversation science to the design of conversational user experience.
  2. To learn a process for prototyping and designing conversation flows.



In conversational systems, user experience consists primarily, if not entirely, of the sequencing of utterances rather than of the interaction with visual interface elements. As such, existing methods of graphical user interface design are of limited use in designing conversational UX. While the graphical user interface uses the metaphor of direct manipulation of physical objects, conversational interfaces use the metaphor of natural human conversation. Natural conversation is different from natural language. While natural language refers to the systematics of a particular language, such as English or Mandarin, natural conversation refers to the systematics of human talk-in-interaction, such as ordinary conversation or a service encounter.

So how is natural conversation organized? Rather than relying entirely on our commonsense knowledge of how human conversation works, UX designers can draw on conversation science. For example, the field of Conversation Analysis has produced a rich literature with formal qualitative models of natural human conversation. This tutorial will demonstrate how some of these models can be used as a basis for designing UX patterns for conversational interfaces.

The tutorial will cover:

  1. Principles of how speakers design their utterances in natural conversation.
  2. The expandable adjacency pair model of interaction in natural conversation and in automated interactions.
  3. UX patterns for conversation management, with parallels to navigation in web page, GUI and command line interaction.
  4. A design process for conversational UX design that includes prototype, design and build stages.

The tutorial will use the IBM Watson Conversation service for demonstration but the methods should apply to any platform using the intent-entity-response paradigm.


Target Audience:

Aspiring conversational UX designers! Participants should have an interest in designing user experience for conversational systems. Experience in UX design, conversation science, copy- or script-writing are a plus.

Bio Sketch of Presenter:

Bob Moore is a research scientist at IBM Research-Almaden, where he examines the intersection of human conversation and technology. He is currently developing a general methodology and design framework for conversational UX design. Dr. Moore uses natural conversation patterns identified in the field of Conversation Analysis to inspire the design of UX patterns for conversational interfaces.

In the past Dr. Moore has worked as a scientist at Yahoo! Labs and the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), as well as a game designer at The Multiverse Network. His past research includes studies of user interaction with search engines using eye-tracking, avatar-mediated interaction in virtual worlds, face-to-face interaction in print shops, work practices in automobile assembly plants and telephone-mediated interaction in survey call centers. Dr. Moore holds Ph.D., M.S. and B.A. degrees in sociology with concentrations in ethnomethodology, Conversation Analysis and ethnography.