If you are interested in bot design, you should first grasp as to why there is so much interest around real time chats as of now.
In particular, private messaging leaps ahead of social media as the most popular form of mobile communication, brands are coming up with innovative ways to find their place in this personal online space. The messaging trend has resulted in the growth of chatbots, which enable brands to communicate with customers and fans of the brand, providing customer service, news updates or even entertaining content to keep their customers engaged. By gaining a presence in the user’s private online life, right next to messages from their friends, family, and coworkers, the brand forms a closer, more personal and authentic relationship with the user.

What Is Bot Design?

A common misconception about design is that it refers to the look of a product — in the case of a bot, this could be the colors or spacing, for example. In fact, when we talk about bot design, we’re referring to how the bot works. On one hand, its technical construction and functionality. On the other hand, the final user experience that the chatbot is creating. The most successfull bot designers have a feeling of the technical side, without knowing the details. At the same time, they are obsessed wiht the final user experience.

We’re in a phase where brands are highly interested in improving the design of bots to increase their efficiency for the brand and create a more positive experience for the user, encouraging them to continue engaging with the brand in this manner. There is a big incentive for the tech industry to solve the bot design problem, because there are so many successful brands keen to incorporate bots into their marketing and/or customer service strategy.

If you’ve used chatbots yourself, you’ll know that there is a wide variety of approaches to the challenge of bot design. You might be familiar with Slack‘s friendly, informal “slackbot,” which helps users get to grips with the platform, or the branded chatbots available on Facebook Messenger, which provide information and content in a visual, creative format. We can expect to see one style become dominant as bot design progresses and we find out which bots users respond to most positively.

User Testing for Bot Design

As the success of bot design depends on how well the user responds, user testing is a key stage of the design process. This means the designer of the bot will ask people to try using the bot for different purposes and provide feedback on how well the bot worked and whether using it was a pleasant experience.

In our experience, having your chatbot user-tested before its launch is key. If you are interested in this topic, check out how user testing improved our bots. Short version: If you user-test your bot before launching it, you will end up with a far more engaging and compelling user experience, which will lead to higher engagement and better retention. In the end, you will save a lot of money and time. Plus, user testing can be a lot of fun!
It’s important to user-test your bot design prior to launch, but the testing shouldn’t end there. Once your bot is in use by real customers, that’s when you can truly find out how effective it is and learn of any problems that will negatively impact the usage of the bot. As with any form of digital design, being agile and open to refinements to better serve the user is the key to success.

The Importance of User Experience

When designing any kind of digital product, it’s tempting for the designer to create what looks good to them and serves the purposes that they personally would find most useful. However, they must remember to keep in mind the typical user and what their tastes and needs are, which may be different to the designer’s own.
The importance of raw, final user experience can’t be underestimated because it can cause the success or failure of a product. At Botsociety we usually try to slice a bot design experience in two main parts: The overall flow and the copy used to communicate such flow. With flow we refer to the general approach that the bot poses to the user. For example, a bot designed to help you block your credit card may ask you first for your name, your credit card number, or your bank. Deciding what to ask for first, and what to do after the user answers, is part of the flow. The way the bot phrases the requests is the copy. A bot design may get the flow right and the copy wrong, or vice-versa. Being able to distinguish the two – either via design iteration or user testing – will enable you to make proper decisions and, in the end, come up with a better design. A classic way to distinguish the two is to create two different designs which sport the same flow, but a different copy. Then run a quick user test – by sharing the design – and observe if the users are going to your flow substantially faster. If they are both struggling, you may have a flow problem.

Generally speaking, always take into consideration that if the bot is pleasant to use and enables them to get what they wanted, whether that might be information, entertainment or advice, then they won’t hesitate to return and use the bot again in the future.