Bot Basics: What makes a chatbot “intelligent?”

A bot is a computer program that automates tasks. A bot that engages with people using a conversational or “chat” interface is a chatbot. Using text or voice inputs, it simulates how humans interact when having a conversation. Chatbots can complete a simple action like retrieving information or provide a practical service like communicating with customers. Any task that doesn’t require a human interaction—asking questions about reservations, ordering food, checking the weather—may be done more efficiently by chatbots.

Chatbots can make use of artificial intelligence (AI). A simple chatbot may use rules or a decision-tree to chat. Its paths are limited, and users select from defined options. Instead of programmed responses, an AI chatbot can use machine learning or natural language processing systems to respond. In machine learning (ML), algorithms are changing constantly in order to be able to “learn” and give accurate answers in time.

What’s the difference between AI and ML?

Artificial Intelligence is the larger concept of computers systems executing tasks normally done by humans in an “intelligent” way. Machine learning is an application of AI where machines use data to improve their responses learn on their own. Natural language processing is an application of machine learning.

Why build a chatbot?

A chatbot must have a purpose or fulfill a need for users. If you can’t identify a task, service or process that a chatbot can perform to make something easier, faster, or better then it’s probably not the right solution. When the chatbot is an appropriate solution, benefits should be like:

  • Increased brand affinity and loyalty
  • Reinforced brand voice and personality
  • Increased engagement and interaction times
  • Higher conversion rates
  • Differentiation from the competition
  • Better informed customer support before live chat sessions

Chatbot Purpose and Planning

Taking the time to design the experience will result in a better outcome for the chatbot and user than not doing it and use a template direct from internet.

1. Define the purpose and strategy

It doesn’t matter the size of the project, it should be defensible reason for having a chatbot. Answer these questions to help articulate the chatbot’s purpose and rationale for investing in its creation.

  • Who is the audience?
  • What do they want?
  • What service will the chatbot provide? What problem will it solve or common task can it make easier or faster?
  • How will the bot provide value to the audience/users? What will make it useful?
  • How does the bot align with our business or marketing objectives?
  • Is this the right customer service model for our company and brand?

2. Outline the scope

After identifying the need the chatbot will fulfill, outline the details of its specific capabilities. Not all tasks or experiences transfer well to a chatbot interaction. Define what the bot will and won’t do. Make a list of the use cases. This will keep the development work focused and help manage expectations regarding the end product. This is especially important if it is the first time stakeholders or your team have worked on a chatbot project.

Focus on the chatbot doing one thing really well and then add complementary features later. See what is and isn’t working before adding complexity that might diminish what could have been a simple and satisfactory solution.

3. Define success

Establish measurable metrics to show the results. The metrics should relate to the strategy and will depend on the service the bot is providing. For example, “Were the customer service calls reduced?” or “Did the website traffic increased?”.

4. Identify triggers and scenarios

How will the chatbot integrate with the user experience? It is important to outline the trigger actions and entry points for the users. What the user want to do with the chatbot and how this will assist, is crucial for the success. Write the scenarios for your user personas (or do user research if you don’t have any) to plan the varying interactions the chatbot will need to support. Consider interactions such as: first-time visitor, returning to the main menu, returning to a transaction or clicking a link. The conversation flow may change.

5. Create a chatbot persona and personality that reflects the company brand

While a persona isn’t required, creating one can make planning interactions and scripting responses easier. The bot should have a personality that is appropriate for the company, brand, and the users it will interact with. Be creative, but use the company style guides for voice and tone within the conversational writing. A persona can help writers determine the right words and syntax and bring consistency to dialogues so the chatbot doesn’t have multiple personalities.

Design sprint exercises

1. Identify Personas, but what is a Persona?

Personas are archetypical users whose goals and characteristics represent the needs of a larger group of users. Usually, a persona is presented in a one or two-page document (like the one you can see in the example below). 

2. Crazy 8s

Now that we had a brief, it was time to sketch. I gave each person an A3 sheet of paper and asked them to fold it in half three times, leaving them with eight sections. I gave the group ten minutes to sketch down as many solutions as possible relating to the brief, which they then had to present back to the group. I asked the group to be as creative as possible, and not to worry if their ideas weren’t feasible.

3. The Beetle

I then divided everyone into three groups and assigned each group two ideas from the Crazy 8s exercise. Each group had to produce one ultimate idea, they were then asked to answer “The Beetle” questions.

These were: Who is it for? Why would people use this again? What is special about this idea? What happens if you reverse this? What makes this different? How could you grow this idea? How does the experience behave? Who does it remind you of?

4. The Prototypes


Putting Personas to Work in UX Design: What They Are and Why They’re Important

Chatbox UX: Crafting a Valuable Conversation

How I used traditional design sprint exercises to develop a CUI chatbot