A sad, sad story about creating a chatbot with the same purpose of an app
Ok so you think chatbots are going to replace apps, eventually. I’m with you there. You think chatbots are easier to use compared to apps. I’m with you again. You think people will use it also because they don’t have to install anything. I agree. You are building a chatbot that has exactly the same functionality as an existing app.
Please. Don’t. Build. That. Chatbot.
Reason 1: People don’t like to switch
People have their habits. They are used to stuff. They don’t like to change their habits.
Example: The touch interface of the iPhone. Remember it? It was 2007. Just a giant screen and touch control. It was so insanely better than any other mobile interface. Nonetheless, a lot of people did not like the iPhone at first. They wanted the physical buttons, like in the Blackberry. They did not actually like all those small plastic buttons. But it took time to get used to them, and now they had to learn it all over again.
It is the same with mobile apps and chatbots. It’s not like people like to download an app and figure out how to navigate an additional app just to get one thing done. But they are used to it now, and just being a little bit better will not make people switch to a conversational interface.
You have to be at least 10 times better compared to what users are used to. Having the same functionality of the app X but in bot form it’s not 10 times better.
Reason 2: You are not leveraging on the chatbot strengths
There’s a reason why the mobile app you want to copy is doing what is doing. And the reason is that the app was designed to leverage on the platform’s strengths.
Example, if you rely heavily on the user location — like Uber — you are leveraging on one of the mobile application strengths. This is usually true for successful apps.
Because the app you wanted to copy is successful, right?
So, you have to leverage on the platform’s strengths. Ok. But what are the strengths of a chatbot? You actually know them: The personal relationship you can establish with the user; the notifications; the personality of a chatbot; the ability to know the name, surname and timezone of the user without asking; etc.
Example: Forksy is actually leveraging on the chatbot’s strenghts: It will give you personal advises about your eating habits, using the personal relationship it can build with its users. It leverages on how simple it is to send pictures over Facebook Messenger and the fact that people are already snapping pictures at their meal.
Reason 3: You are missing an opportunity
Chatbots are an entire new world to explore and conquer. By replicating an existing service, you are actually limiting your possibilities.
Don’t you think users, the press, and fellow developers would be much more interested in a totally new approach on an existing problem? It’s much better to spend your time on something that can make a dent on the chatbot ecosystem.