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Compared to mobile, web and pretty much every other type of programming, chatbots demand a monumental shift in thinking. Engineers are not designing user interface elements and actions; they are creating a human-level conversation.

Even the minimalist of websites and programmes have interactions for the user to click and type into. These elements help users understand how to interact and get information from the programme.

In comparison, a chatbot relies on one thing. Language.

According to science, human language started to develop around 100,000 years ago.

As a human race, we have been practising grunting, talking and communicating for a long, long time. Chatbot and NLP developers have had what, 40 years to catch up?

Of course, this makes designing a chatbot user experience quite difficult. To deal with this challenge, some developers rely on buttons, images and other 'clickable' things to guide a user. The most natural, human-level, chatbots only rely on language and conversation. Each have their merits and use cases; one is not better than the other.

With this in mind, here are three top user experience tips we give to every new client.

  1. Tell the user they are talking to a bot
  2. Tell the user how to speak to a human
  3. Tell the user what the bot can do

Take note how none of these need buttons, images or clever user experience 'tricks'. They only need clear language.

By telling the user they are talking to a machine, it sets expectations and signals for them to change their language. You would be amazed how a users language changes when they know they are talking to a bot. Once they stop trying to break it, they become much more direct and somewhat less human.

"Hello, I'm looking for blue high heel shoes for a party this weekend" turns into "blue high heel party shoes". They almost treat the bot like a glorified search engine.

By telling the user how to speak to a human, it gives the confidence to try talking to the bot, knowing a person is there if needed. Some people will straight away to ask to speak to a human, and that is fine too. A chatbot's job is to serve the user, and if they want to get help from a person, then its job is to make it happen.

When the chatbot tells the user what it can do, it helps guide the conversation and get it started on the right foot. A simple "I'm here to help you find the perfect shoes" or "I'm here to help you track your package". Have it say something that gives the user an idea of what to say and how to interact. It also has the added benefit of stopping them expecting a bot that sells shoes can tell them the weather in NYC.

So, that is all I really wanted to talk about in this post.

My main take away is that a great chatbot user experience does not come from buttons, images, gifs or anything else flashy. It comes from language user realising the best experience comes from a frictionless journey to the user's goal.