Charli + Command Line = ♥️

The consumerization of CLI

As many in the technology world have noticed, command-line interfaces are making a comeback in a big way. Gaby Goldberg’s recent article dove into the topic so I don’t want to reiterate how we got here and what it means, she’s already done an excellent job. 

In this week's newsletter, I want to talk about how we’ve been thinking about UI and UX at Charli. I’ll give you some insight into how we started out with a conversational user interface built on natural language understanding and quickly evolved to something more multi-experienced. 

As Gaby says in her piece the next-generation command line is something “powerful and approachable” because you can’t just build consumer or prosumer products for super users they need to appeal to non-technical users as well. At Charli we saw this right away, for particular use cases more technical users wanted to interact with Charli differently, they wanted to break the natural language conversation and use the GUI, keyboard shortcuts, slash commands or yes even command line to complete the tasks. 

Before I dive into where we are today and which path we chose to move forward with, let’s talk a little bit about why we chose natural language in the first place. 

We are still very bullish on conversational UX being the future of SaaS and the dominant systems of engagement we will all build over the next decade. When we first came up with the idea of Charli it was to make good on the promise of AI assistants that had all come to disappoint with their lack of natural language understanding and rigidly coded tasks. We wanted users to be able to talk to Charli from any device over any channel, truly multi-experience mixing texting in-app, emailing, chat, and voice. 

Our focus on natural language understanding gave us this ability to seamlessly speak to Charli across those channels, but what we soon realized was that we needed to optimize for each of those channels strengths and incorporate other UI patterns like GUI and command line in order to make working with Charli not just easy but extremely fast

As a disciplined product company, we weren’t just riding a wave, as we got closer to defining our product-market fit with Charli and focusing on content organization we of course thought about our users first. Who is the ideal user of Charli and what are they doing? Our users are prosumers who are either knowledge workers or rely on some knowledge work in order to run their business. They are also people who have high volumes of content/information to manage, aspire to be organized but do not have the time to spend meticulously organizing their content every day. Our users were comfortable moving away from natural language for some aspects of the product if it meant they could organize and find their content faster. Speed translated to time savings and our value proposition around work-life balance. This reevaluation of our UI unlocked a massive new surface area for us to play with and for our users to enjoy. 

So where did we land?

Are we now a next-gen command line company?

No, not quite. We love what folks at Superhuman, Command E, Slapdash, and more are doing. But we’re not all CLI all the time. 

At its core, Charli is still focused on being an always-available multi-channel companion for your organization needs. What we’ve realized is that Charli’s natural language capabilities don’t always work efficiently in these channels for every user. We’re renewing our focus on multi-experience and designing UI to expose both ‘power user’ and ‘consumer’ functionality like slash commands, shortcuts and GUI to make using Charli easy, fast, and almost invisible. 

Here’s the link to Gaby’s article and some others she listed on this topic: