Designing for Conversational UIs

Steph Hay · Wednesday, November 15 · 8:30am – 5:30pm · in Seaport A

Design a bot conversation from scratch. Define the character traits and key messages for your conversational UI interactions.

Write atomic-level content to communicate with a customer in voice or text interfaces. Create a language tree that guides development.

Steph is Head of Conversation Design at Capital One. She led the design of Capital One’s skill on Alexa, and also Eno—the first natural-language SMS chatbot by a U.S. bank.

The Day’s Agenda


Design a character that fits your style

  • Prevent yourself from making a bot that’s insensitive or sociopathic
  • Identify key character traits that give your bot borders
  • Define 2–3 use cases that serve your customers’ interests

Make a Language Tree

  • Write unstructured, atomic content to provide responses to your use cases
  • Structure your content into a Language Tree that has alternate branches per use case
  • Add chit chat to fill the margins around your use cases


Map pre- and post-conversations

  • Create content for introducing your bot and saying goodbye
  • Consider elements for the first-time, onboarding experience
  • Refine your “happy path” conversation within the journey

See your work come to life, IRL

  • Role play your conversational bot experience out loud
  • Research the technical opportunities and constraints of bot platforms
  • Hear how powerful designing for habits can be

Choose Your Words Wisely

Know who you’re talking to

Stop designing for everyone, all at once. Analyze contextual and behavioral data to understand what “natural language” really means in different conversational channels.

See content as a conversation

When users arrive at your doorstep—no matter the channel—what are the top 3 questions they typically ask? Anticipate their arrival by using direct words that spark more conversations.

Design with real content

Start your design process by capturing the language your users already use to communicate. All sorts of behavioral and business metrics will magically unlock.

You’ll see how to:

  • Design conversations that engage and motivate your users
  • Plan your user experience with text (the lowest fidelity!) in a Google doc
  • Write scripts for user interviews to test content and language preferences
  • Use the Content Workbook to facilitate design discussions across silos
  • Test content for understandability by running experiments using AdWords and email
  • Design fewer iterations overall by first getting sign-off on messaging

Start Using the Content-first Approach Right Away

Increase your ability and confident to write content, even if you’re not a writer

Achieve powerful and compelling conversations with your users using contextually relevant, natural language.

Collect tools for finding the “right” words for your bot

Gain customer insights from Google Analytics, and define the boundaries of your own voice.

Create Language Trees that map the conversations

Stop leaving fellow designers and developers on the hook to “fill in the blanks” of content.

Learn a process for delivering a Content-First design for any device

Launch engaging products faster by solving content problems before jumping to design solutions.

You’ll be Writing a Bunch in this Workshop

You’ll be working individually in a Google Doc (you must have an account) to define a character, create a language tree, and make a full conversation for any voice- or text-based interface.

Steph Hay

Photo of Steph Hay

Here’s what Jared says about why he chose Steph for UI22…

If you’ve ever thought a “content-first” approach to design was an impossible dream, you haven’t met Steph Hay. She’s done it with Ben & Jerry’s, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a throng of startups, and now as head of content strategy at Capital One.

In fact, we were so impressed with Steph’s talent that we asked her to write content for us—which she did before Capital One stole her away.

Fortunately, they’re sharing her with all of us… but just for a couple days.

Steph’s also an entrepreneur; she co-founded, was co-founding editor of, and made She’s been a mentor at 500 Startups and the Lean Startup Conference, and was named a Tech Titan in Washington, DC.

She also created a passion project called—why not tweet #1nicething to someone and make their day a little brighter?

Steph’s a top-rated presenter here at UIE and you’ll soon see why—if you’re looking for an energetic, refreshing, practical workshop fundamentally based on UX design, this is it.

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