Episode 49 of The Informed Life podcast features an interview with strategy and innovation consultant Phillip Hunter. Phillip’s focus is conversation-based systems, and among several previous roles in this space, he served as head of user experience for Amazon Alexa Skills.

We had a meta-conversation in that our conversation focused on conversation itself — what it is, and more to the point, how we can design systems that converse with their users. Phillip pointed out several tools and approaches designers can use to design conversational systems. But he also called out what such challenges have in common with other design projects:

one of the first big steps in designing — as with all other design — is really understanding what’s the context, what’s the goal, who’s participating, what knowledge might they have? What knowledge do we expect them not to have? What do they want? Why do they want it? All of these sorts of questions that are fundamental to any sort of true design activity that we’re doing are still important. The thing now though, is instead of saying, “Okay, well that means we’re going to have certain kinds of boxes or certain content on our screen,” we’re saying, “How do we translate all of that into words that we can exchange fairly easily?” And right now, I got to say, we’re mostly doing a really terrible job of it.

If you’re designing for voice, you must listen to this interview. But this episode should also prove valuable if (like many of us these days) you find yourself on the other side of a conversation with a digital system.

The Informed Life Episode 49: Phillip Hunter on Design for Conversation