Are chatbots in the future of website design? These little bits of artificial intelligence are starting to pop up everywhere – whether you notice them for what they are or not.
Here, we’re going to take a look at what makes chatbots work and how to make the most of including one in your website design.
What is a Chatbot?
A chatbot, which refers to a chatting robot, is a computer program that can simulate conversation. Chatbots are often tiny programs that function inside a website or app and help users find information, connect to resources or just offer a standard greeting.
Chatbots are beginning to pop up everywhere. Facebook and Microsoft are leading the way, if you are questioning the validity of a computer talking to your users.
They can offer immediate engagement and connection at times when your staff is busy or just can’t connect online. They are a useful tool for answering simple questions, setting reminders or just keeping on task.
It’s All About the Conversation
When it comes to using chatbots, it’s all about the conversation. You probably interact with at least one chatbot a day if you are an active online user.
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These conversations are simple. Chatbots offer answers and solutions to common questions by “learning” keywords and “thinking” about specific prompts.
When it comes to the design of a chatbot, the persona is important. How does the bot speak to the user? What is the conversation like?
Bots also rely on patterns to relay information, so they can be tricked or get confused by certain dialog or combinations of keywords. A good bot is constantly updated and refined so that you can see what information it is receiving and giving back to users in return.
Chatbots are more than just online chatting tools, and have wide application that you can take advantage of in a number of ways.
A sampling of some of the things chatbots can do include:
- Create clever and conversational applications that mimic the way people actually talk to each other.
- Increase conversions with users in Facebook messenger.
- Schedule “meetings” or team conversations in Slack.
- Tracks messages and conversations that your bot engages in and compile analytics. (Yes, there are even bots for your bots.)
- Connect users to like-minded applications, businesses or websites.
- Welcome new users to your social media profile or answer questions when messaged.
Now when it comes to thinking about exactly how your bot will operate and speak to users, you should keep a few key concepts in mind. While some super-simple bots can fool you – mostly because they work so well you don’t even think about the idea of a bot being used – complicated bot interfaces can get clunky and awkward in a hurry. (Maybe one day the artificial intelligence will be there to better refine this idea.)
- Don’t try to fool people into thinking the chatbot is a human. It’s perfectly acceptable to use a chatbot, but be straightforward about it. Let the robot have and maintain a “robot personality.”
- Create a chat. It’s a user pattern that people know and understand. Don’t mess with a system that already works.
- Create a chatbot that helps the user. While this might seem like a “well, duh” kind of action, too often developers add a bot to a design because it is cool. Only add a chatbot to enhance the user experience.
- Keep it simple. Bots work great when it comes to answering questions from your product FAQ, but won’t be effective in walking users through a process that has multiple steps. If you can answer in a few words, use a bot. If the answer is more complex, save it for a human.
- Keep it conversational. You can’t always know your end user or how much knowledge they have coming into the chatbot conversation. Bot-based responses should use common language, answer in the most basic of ways and interact in an easy to read manner. (If the answers are overly long or complicated, it is not a task be solved using a chatbot.)
- Provide an out. Some users will always be frustrated by bot-style conversations. Give them a button to get out of the chat and contact you in another way, such as email or phone.
- One bot per site please. One conversation per bot. Don’t overuse bots because your site will feel … well, robotic. Use them where needed and where necessary, but don’t go overboard.
- Always keep an eye on your bot. Monitor how it is used and make adjustments as needed to ensure that it is meeting the needs of users.
Get Started with Chatbots
So now that you are interested in using a chatbot, where do you find the right one?
There are two options: You can build it or you can find something that’s ready to use. The second option is probably your best bet.
For that, visit Bots Place. The site includes a massive (and searchable) database of bots for you to choose from. There are bot for specific apps and services, bots that can stand alone in almost any design and bots that can help your bots work more efficiently. (Sounds crazy, right?)
If you really want to experiment and create your own chatbot, try a tool such as Robot.me. The free tool lets you create a bot that you can use in your projects. (And while this sounds like a lot of fun, a premade, tested chatbot just seems like a faster, easier option.)
Chatbots are a great tool when it comes to quick interactions with users. They can help you work more efficiently, save time and impress users that are looking to find answers to a question quickly.
To make the most of using a chatbot, remember to keep it simple, don’t try to trick users and follow the analytics trail for constant feedback and improvement. And now that you are on the lookout for chatbots, pay even closer attention to see which ones work well and what lessons you can learn from them.