We used AI to solve a problem at Mayte, here’s how you can too.
Towards the end of 2017, Mayte said its goodbyes to Inspire9 and found itself a new home in Fitzroy.
It’s safe to say that the whole team loves the new space but as we all know, nothing’s ever perfect – but we love that.
Why? Well if nothing can ever be perfect, that mean’s there is always a gap to fill or bolt to tighten. In other words, there’s always an opportunity for Mayte to practice what we preach, solving problems with emerging technologies.
What was the problem?
Our new space relied on a buzzer to handle incoming visitors. The top floor would ring, insisting somebody to temporarily leave their work space (both mentally and physically) and walk over to the receiver and see who was at the door. This was clearly not the most efficient method. I mean, we’re in 2018!
What was our solution?
Build our own virtual concierge.
World, meet Connie George.
Behind the monacle bot.
Ask for Connie George when speaking to our Google Home. Tell Connie George who you’re here to see, your name, reason for your visit and Connie George will personally send a message on Slack to the visitee, making them aware that they have a visitor. What a top guy.
The best thing about it all is that Connie George was built using only two tools. Dialogflow, a natural language conversation service powered by AI, and Cloud Functions on the Google Cloud Platform.
About the tools
Dialogflow is where the magic happens, train the bot and give it some understanding of its purpose by interacting with it. Pass in some words or sentences that you want it to note as being of importance or relevant. Then pass in potential answers or responses you would like it to say.
Dialogflow is built to be really easy and user-friendly, get a little familiar with it here.
But setting our own responses is kind of boring and useless right? We want a bot that can go out and do stuff on it’s own! That’s where Google Cloud Functions come in.
Your bot has the ability to utilise something called webhooks which basically grabs the request and data from an interaction, do something with it and send back a response.
This is where Google Cloud Functions comes in.
A cloud function is basically like any other function except that it lives in the cloud and therefore can be accessed pretty much anywhere. Perfect opportunity for our bot.
With the information your function will receive from the bot, you’ll be able to use that and do anything you like and shoot back a response. In our case, we stored the name of the visitor, visitee and reason. With the saved information, we utilised the Slack API to find the visitee and send a message based on reason such as “Got room for a bite Harrison? Norman is at reception to have lunch with you.”
You can check out the code to the function here
Though a very high level overview, it goes to show the kind of world we live in today. We have been gifted with easy to use services and tools to create solutions whether they be for everyday and simple problems or growing pains for enterprises. This brings nothing but excitement and joy for Mayte as digital problem solvers. What kind of problems are you facing? Chat to Lexi and let us know or drop us a line here!
The benefits of illustration in digital products
Last year I wrote a design forecast of what to expect from the design community in 2018. So I thought why not elaborate on the design elements that are really starting to make some moves.
In a world where design thinking is becoming stronger and more critical in order to positively affect user and customer experience. One area of design, in particular, is getting stronger and more creative every day.
Illustration has become an important part in all areas of visual and communication design. This is because it compliments content, experience, and memorability of a brand and platform.
Yeah, yeah, but why?
Well, illustrations/drawings are in fact the oldest form of written communication. With some cave drawings discovered to be up to 35,000 years old.
Chauvet Cave, Ardèche, France. Dated to: 30,000 to 28,000 B.C. Source
Researchers have also found that 90% of the information that us humans process are visual. This form of communication wasn’t an accident either, researchers have also concluded that our brain stores two variations of a visual element, one verbal and the other visual. Compared to written, which is just stored as verbal. Through the process of storing a verbal and visual code in two separate parts of our brains when viewing an illustration as a form of communication. It makes it more likely that we can access this information making it easier to remember and actually having an impact.
So how can illustrations benefit a product or service in 2018?
The list of benefits realistically can go on for days but let’s focus on 3 that I find the best benefits or use cases:
- Add delight
- Ease of understanding
Delight within a digital product is something that has gotten a lot of attention within design and user experience in recent times. This term refers to providing users with great pleasure or satisfaction. This element is something that can be achieved quite simply. If successful a brand can build a sense of character surrounding their product as a result. Many brands achieve delight in different ways but two brands that are worth noting is Mailchimp and Asana.
Source: asana board
Currently, both Mailchimp and asana use delightful illustrations in-order to capture a particular moment or experience on their application. Although asana’s example is much more simple, it is an element of delight. This example by Asana displays a little Board Monster that pops out behind cards when successfully moving its location. This is surprise is something that happens randomly and is a subtle example that helps improve memorability.
Mailchimp is an absolute champion when it comes to capturing the importance of a moment through illustration. There are a number of surprises when navigating through their emailing process. The first when you try to send the email to your subscribers. This initial example displays a sweating monkeys hand about to press “that red button”. Then followed by a high five from the same cheeky monkey once the email has sent.
Ease of understanding
Illustrations are a perfect tool to help guide the user in understanding exactly what is going on whether on the platform or in a physical sense. I’m sure we are all familiar with the saying “a picture can say a thousand words”. This saying could not ring truer than this use of illustrations in this case.
Take this onboarding process for example. This app concept by Chapps uses an appealing set of animated illustrations to help the user grasp a better understanding of this new service. They achieve this by creating a nice set of illustrations for every step of the new service which helps the user visualise what they need to do in-order to participate.
Source: Chapps dribbble project
The identity of your brand or product is something that will definitely benefit from well thought out and consistent illustrations. This is an element that will help the user find a brand or service memorable and will ultimately lead the direction of any communication from the brand.
Sometimes there is just something that photography can’t achieve, Illustrations help make the impossible, possible. You can make illustrations as whimsical and fictional as you want, you can use illustrations in an abstract manner – stripped right back to help highlight the actions required on a platform or to highlight the product in its entirety.
When using illustrations to successfully improve your brand or products identity it has to have a purpose and not distract the user from what’s most important, your product or service. Although a well-executed illustration is is quite decorative, they aren’t there to solely make your product look “cool”. When this design element is chosen, it has to be done in a way to improve the user’s experience (keep this in mind, delight is perfect at this stage).
Source: Bugsnap concept by Robbin Cenijn for ueno.
If you’re thinking about improving your brand, service, and product with illustration it is easy to lose sight of what you need compared to what you want.
remember it needs to have a clear purpose, relate to the content and ease any friction of understanding. Illustration is a powerful design element and should be considered with all digital products in the future. I salute all that dare to step into the realm of originality and not take the easy path.
I would love to see your product and how illustration has improved the experience, or if you’re thinking about getting illustrations I would love to see what you currently have and want to improve.