Mobile Predictions for 2017 – Bots & Apps: Can’t they get along?

Every year we make our projections for the coming year in mobile.   Some years it’s a Top 10, some a Top 5, but this year it’s a Top 1.   We haven’t felt more certain about any trend since the launches of the iPhone and iPad — this is going to be big.

Bots or intelligent agents are everywhere in the press.  According to BI Intelligence, 59% of users 18-55 are using bots, at least occasionally.   But for those of us who have used bots, they remain a royal pain to use for all sorts of reasons:

  • Confusion of how to initiate a bot and why bots are different (e.g. within Facebook vs. within an app itself vs. within Messaging)
  • Poor interface design and responses
  • Slow or unusable — no, I really don’t want you to list 12 movie times for me that I then need to remember and choose one.

We believe the future will be the marriage of bots and apps, and this will happen in 2017 in a big way.   Always remember the underlying driver of this — humans are on a never ending quest for efficiency — and we communicate at:

  • ~40 words per minute when typing
  • ~130 words per minute when speaking
  • ~250 words per minute when reading

The interface of the future will rely on speaking into our devices, and receiving information visually on the screen.   Notice we said “devices” — because the real breakthrough in 2017 will be a true multimodal relationship between brands and consumers.  Imagine asking your Amazon Echo to list movie times, and having them pop up on your iPhone, or asking your Google Assistant for hotel room availability and getting the list in your desktop browser.

So what to do to get ready for Multimodal UX?

  1. Build a Bot:  Over 50% of our clients are working with us on bots tied into apps at this point.   As with any new technology, assume you will need some real time to work out the kinks.   Get rolling now on a bot, even if it’s a basic one.  This is not with the goal of having the bot be a great driver of business (it won’t be), but for setting yourself up for multi-modal UI.
  2. Organize Around Apps:  Don’t make the mistake of building a standalone chatbot or intelligent agent team.  You should view these as just another interface to get to the same data.  Over time, the bots and apps have to work seamlessly together, so organize for that now and have this be a single team (whether it’s an internal team or through an agency), and work directly with a single back-end team.
  3. Start a Multimodal UX Strategy Project:   Really start working on personal and user journeys around how users will ideally interact with your brand as they hop from voice to visual interface, and from device to device.  Then start testing the most obvious use cases and start pushing them into full design/development.
  4. Build a Device Lab, or Partner With Someone Who Has One:   To really start appreciating how this will all work, you need to be able to hack on various devices and start moving users among them seamlessly.  Most of us live in a Google+Apple+Facebook+Amazon world.   Each of those companies will make it easy to move around in their own ecosystem, but harder to move between — the real winners will allow users to seamlessly jump between asking for a recipe on your Echo and getting the response on your iPad.

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