Chatbot design is a wild new frontier. It’s true – conversational design today is where web design was in 1996. And now (drum roll, please…), chatbot prototyping tools are finally here! If you’re interested in designing conversational interfaces, now is a great time to start creating.

If you’re just starting out in the world of chatbot design, here are a few ideas to keep in mind:

1.  Give Every Word Meaning

api.ai bot is an example of great chatbot design.

api.ai bot for Slack is smart and concise.

Good chatbot design relies on words, but isn’t wordy. When designing a conversational interface, every word your bot “says” must be essential–either to the bot’s function or the bot’s personality (or both). A crowded conversational interface will diminish the clarity of your product. In contrast, a concise and strong conversational interface will be the backbone of your (excellent) user experience. Users will want to come back to a chatbot they know is clear and reliable. 50-200 characters (not words) per message is a good baseline to follow when designing chatbots.

Developers, consider hiring a copywriter or UX writer to make your chatbot’s voice clear, direct, and in line with your brand’s personality.

Also, use spellcheck. Typos instantly ruin your chatbot’s credibility.

 

2. Get Your User Flows On Point

LeBron James makes slam dunks, and so can you, but with chatbot design.

Aim to create user flows that feel like a slam dunk.

Getting your user flows perfect is essential for chatbots–perhaps more so than for any other digital medium. Because the user interface and user experience is intentionally minimal, there is no room to make mistakes with the final user flow. In web UIs, users are more willing to click around before giving up on a task. This is not the case with chatbots. A mistake can cause your chatbot to lose the user forever.

If you’re having trouble organizing your thoughts, I recommend focusing first on nailing down your user flows. It’s easy to get tangled up in the details of your chatbot’s identity, but I’ve found that it’s better to develop your chatbot’s personality after you’ve designed solid user flows.

3. Give Your Chatbot Personality

Poncho the Weather Cat is an example of chatbot design that embraces personality.

Poncho the Weather Cat makes jokes, has a backstory, and sometimes talks in memes. He’s also reliable and accurate with the information he provides. He is awesome.

Once you’ve nailed down your user flows, infuse your chatbot with personality. If you haven’t already, give your chatbot a good name, and don’t be afraid to give it unique characteristics. Engagement with your bot will be be higher and deeper if you give your bot a distinctive tone and identity. Giving your chatbot a personality allows your users to emotionally invest, and also makes your chatbot memorable (and hopefully charming!).

Return to the functional copy you’ve written and see if you can replace generic words with ones that make your bot’s character stand out more. But don’t let personality overshadow functionality by being too wordy. Clarity is king in chatbot design.

Also, don’t worry about pleasing everyone. No personality is universally likable. In my opinion, it’s better to design a chatbot identity that has a little spark, than one that is bland and generic (I’m lookin’ at you, Alexa). A unique feeling personality is memorable and will resonate with your target audience.

 

4. Chatbot design is also speaking visually

BotSociety is a great app for chatbot design.

Images, carousels, and button responses are easy to insert into your chatbot interface.

If you and your friends can text emojis  and memes, your chatbot should be able to, too. Plain text is the main building block of your chatbot, but it doesn’t have to be the only way in which your chatbot speaks. Pictures, buttons, and carousels are great ways of conveying messages and actions clearly and memorably. Chatbot mock-up tools allow you to easily insert images and buttons into your user flows. Speaking visually is also a great way for your chatbot’s personality to shine. A picture is worth a thousand words, after all.

Conclusion

Hopefully these tips help you as you start your chatbot design journey. If you want to design a chatbot, and are looking for more inspiration, keep learning about what makes a great chatbot from other articles.

Welcome to the new frontier!

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