Rant: Bots & Conversational UIs

over 1 year ago from , Creator at Sidebar

The new Microsoft Bot Framework site illustrates everything I hate about the new conversational UI trend, by using ordering pizza as its use case.

Let's see what exactly is wrong with the interaction depicted.

1) It makes the assumption people want to order pizza from Slack, rather than by going to some dedicated pizza-ordering website. Is ordering pizza really such a frequent, time-consuming task that you'd rather set up a special bot for it rather than open up your browser?

2) You have to initiate the interaction with "Hey Pizza Bot!". Why do I need to "turn on" the bot? If the bot is so smart, why can't it just understand when someone is talking about pizza?

3) The bot answers "the usual tonight?". It doesn't tell us what "the usual" is, how much it will cost, or what time it will arrive. A normal, non-conversational UI would obviously show all those things (see the "past orders" tab on any e-commerce website) but this is the future, where we can only use short text messages to communicate.

4) The bot somehow gets that we don't want "the usual". Is that pure luck? What happens if we leave out the word "no" in our reply? What commands does the bot understand? How do I even find out?

5) Still no info about price, time, what's inside each pizza, or other options available. And no way to discover them apart from engaging in a long drawn-out conversation with a fake (and pretty dumb) human.

I'm sure the Bot Framework itself is an amazing piece of technology. But the fact that even Microsoft chose such a poor example as their flagship use case makes me think this technology is going to be very poorly used by the vast majority of people.

So dust off your AIM account, because I hope you like typing in chatrooms…

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