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Designing Conversations With Chat Bots

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Start with a cupcake and go on to the wedding cake!

Getting started with chat bot design can be a bit overwhelming. I have experienced the same when I first sat to do the same. What is the best way to design a chatbot interaction? Do you start with an information architecture, a flow diagram, a list of use cases or something else? Are there any special tools that you can use.

While there are still no official standards or guidelines for conversational interfaces, the industry has developed its best practices based on the massive number of existing products. If you are planning to join the bot race soon, here are the top things to consider.

1. Don’t pretend to be a human

This means not using “is-typing” indicators or artificial delays to make it seem more human. On the contrary, bot messages should be styled differently and be clearly labeled in a way that communicates they are not human. This doesn’t preclude us from giving the bot personality.

Designed by Mushfiq — Find more amazing designs by him HERE

I picked up this design from Dribbble. The design clearly mentions right at the start that the user is going to interact with a bot. It does not show any false “is typing” or dots to convince users that there’s a human behind.

However, it is always a good practice to define the bot’s personality.

2. Be just as smart as a puppy!

@Matt Jones coined this phrase ‘BASAAP’ 5 or 6 years ago. His point was that we should try to design things “that don’t try to be too smart and fail, and indeed, by design, make endearing failures in their attempts to learn and improve. Like puppies.”

Bot conversations should be bounded to very particular subjects and follow linear conversation routes; we should avoid complicated branching paths.

H&M Bot is a good example of this. (Try out this prototype)

(Open in a new tab)

3. Have smart syntax hints

One should have suggestions either readily available or pop up when the user starts typing the response. Let’s check out ways of making the bot smart!

You probably would guessed that “yes” and “no” are valid responses, but “Snooze: 10 minutes” and the “Snooze: remind me when I get to work” options are quite helpful too.

Enabling bot developers to suggest word completions, common responses, and contextually relevant inputs seems worth exploring. At its best this approach would combine the advantages of conversational messaging with the advantages of app-like graphical interfaces.

4. Provide an escape

Always have a human fallback option, allowing the user to express “I’d rather wait and talk to a real human, make this robot thing go away“.

Image source — Designed by Hapibot Studio. Find more amazing designs HERE.

I have taken the liberty of adding an escape navigation to the design. It is also great to have a human face there — It gives confidence to the user who now knows who will be talking to.

5. Design for human emotion

Talking to a robot is boring. While it may be efficient and meet the objective of the product, it won’t be something people enjoy coming back to. And it’s not something we’re used to.

So what is it that we can do as designers to make robot conversations interesting?

  1. Use friendly, inclusive language when speaking to your users to make them feel like they’re chatting with a friend or someone familiar.
  2. Use smileys and emoticons to add fun to conversations
Experience the bot HERE


Before building a chatbot for your business, you should clearly define its purpose and the exact value it could bring to the user. Teach the bot to do one thing extremely good, such as delivering weather forecasts or introducing the company’s scope of service or helping user find a product, before experimenting further with more advanced features. That’s the key lesson I learned while designing the bot for CanvasFlip’s pricing page.

Would you have a look at what I designed? It’s a bot that compares the UX stack for designers and the comparison of pricing based on the stack they use.

Designing Conversations With Chat Bots was originally published in Chatbots Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Source: Chatbots Magazine

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