"Ahm, I Am Only A Bot & I'm Still Learning"

Nadine Kahaleh , Aug 22 2017

ELIZA was born in 1996. At the very first moment of its birth, it was able to ask questions such as “How do you feel?” However, ELIZA wasn’t always very intelligent. Bots aren’t new at all, and ELIZA, the therapist bot written by Jospeh Weizenbaum, a German-American computer scientist is just one of many examples.
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Today, bots have become widely popular. They come in all sorts and types – simple chatbots that are used to automize a certain task on an interface (such as purchasing an item), or personal assistants like the famed Siri and Cortana.

Types aside, there seems to be a general consensus around bots – they are conversational interfaces that constitute a “smart” tool to expose brand’s services. The numbers are a further proof to the aforementioned statement. Or, according to Chatbots Journal, 85% of customer service centers will be operated by bots in 2020.

On another hand, given that conversational computing implies a more sophisticated human-computer interaction, designers have to follow a distinctive approach to bot-design, as the user experience itself becomes conversational.

Mr. Bot, Tell Us More About Yourself
Before dissecting the key principles that every UX designer should pin with a nail to its chatbot design checklist, we’ll begin by explaining what a bot really is.

A bot is one form in which Artificial Intelligence is articulated; it’s an automated technology that’s programmed to fulfill specific tasks. While it is manufactured by a human, it doesn’t include any human intervention when it’s carrying out its respective actions.

Bots are manufactured in different levels of intelligence and complexity, which is why they vary in types such as personal bots, team bots, brand specific bots, and more!

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So, What is UX for Chatbots All About?
Usability guidelines for graphical interfaces are already set in stone, whereas these guidelines bear some ambiguity for conversational interfaces. You’ll find here everything you should take into consideration when you’re designing conversational interfaces.

What Am I Doing Here?
To define your bot's job, you should understand who your audience is and what it really needs when it’s interacting with your product. Just like any UX process, identifying your user is focal to chatbot-design and unescapable.

Once you form a clear understanding about your user, you’ll be able to determine what your bots goals are – reach a quick conversion (which can be translated into a checkout for an ecommerce website)? Engage in long conversations to promote the product indirectly? Etc.

By asking all of the right questions, you’ll get down to the bottom of things and decide for yourself whether your bot will be a generalist, ready to answer a wide range of questions, or a specialist who is knowledgeable about a specific industry.

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You’ve Got A Big Character!
Bots are made to converse with humans, so they'll have to attract them and not bore them with monotonous robot speech. In other words, the bot should project a personality that the user can communicate and engage with. By having real life conversations, you’ll be able to empathize with your user to craft your bot’s persona. Ask yourself “how would a real person answer this question?” and let the answer inspire your design.

Furthermore, voice tone is very important, as it reflects the emotion your bot is trying to communicate to the user. For example, if a bot doesn’t understand what the user is asking, they can answer in a humorous fashion, like “I’m sorry, I’m a just a bot and I don’t have any hands!” 

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Choose Your Words
Creating a backstory to your bot’s character will allow you to develop its personality and choice of words. Its speech will be influenced by its personality and the goal which you’d like the user to complete on the interface.

Don’t confuse your users with fancy words, just use common terms that meet their expectations. Remember, think affordability and remain clear.  For example, Skyscanner bot decided to choose words such as “outbound” and “inbound” to describe dates; whereas the simple wording of “departure” and “return” would have made the whole user experience friendlier.

On another note, if your bot’s delivering a certain feedback to the user, the latter must be articulated by asking not stating. Don’t give your user the impression that they’ve done something wrong!

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Don’t Get All Talkative
Never get overboard with your messages; just keep them at a maximum of 90 characters, which is equal to 3 lines on mobile. Keep in mind that one message shouldn’t exceed a character count of 63, and multiple message shouldn’t reach more than 140 characters, and you’ll be fine!

An example of long messages is Hipmink chatbot; the bot starts the conversation with the user with four opening messaging of 350 characters, which activates the “too long; didn’t read” response.

Be Mobile Friendly
Always design with responsivity in mind! Instead of creating static frames, make certain to design flows that can be broken into micro-sequences that answer to different types of devices.  Think about it this way, your messages will look different in size and mode of access, which will push your users to scroll up to read, while having their mobile keyboard pulled up as well.

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Never Give Up Testing
As it is the case with any UX design process, always test your chatbot’s performance to enhance the user experience. Remember, bots should be able to replace humans, so always ask yourself the question – would a human do a better job here?

Bots Are Humanlike, Not Human
It is very important to establish the difference between the two. Even if your bot has a well-defined personality and conversational skills, your users should always have the sense that they’re interacting with an automated system. 

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