notes on learning, design, tools, & life

Why Chatbots Are Not the Future

Chat interfaces are having a moment, and Amelia Wattenberger has put together a fantastic essay shedding light onto many well-known and long-standing issues with chat compared to more typical graphical user interfaces:

Good tools make it clear how they should be used. And more importantly, how they should not be used. If we think about a good pair of gloves, it’s immediately obvious how we should use them. They’re hand-shaped! We put them on our hands. And the specific material tells us more: metal mesh gloves are for preventing physical harm, rubber gloves are for preventing chemical harm, and leather gloves are for looking cool on a motorcycle.

Compare that to looking at a typical chat interface. The only clue we receive is that we should type characters into the textbox. The interface looks the same as a Google search box, a login form, and a credit card field.

Of course, users can learn over time what prompts work well and which don’t, but the burden to learn what works still lies with every single user. When it could instead be baked into the interface.